Have you ever found yourself hyped up because you had the best idea ever for a story and you couldn’t believe your good fortune? Then you sat down to type and came to one of your beautiful powerhouse scenes and then just couldn’t get it right? Do you find yourself writing and rewriting this scene in the hopes of getting exactly whatever is in your head down into words? Well then, stop right there.
We’ve all been there. I know. I understand the feeling you get to write this scene in this story. You want it to be just right, because you have it all there in your head and it’s perfect. Well, let me ask you something. How long have you been stuck on that scene? An hour? A day? Three weeks?! I think it’s pretty safe to say you’ve got a problem rearing its ugly, little head.
Writing Exercise 10:
Now you have two choices. Yes, just two. Either you insert in brackets a very brief description of what happens there and move on:
[Jana sees scary gremlin poking its head over the desk, screams, falls backwards, and tries to scramble away only to be grabbed at the ankle. Cue more screaming and scrabbling at the tiles.]
Or you could seek some inspiration. As a writer, I’m sure you’ve read several books of the same genre you write in. I’m even more sure you’ve read many books outside the genre you write in. Somewhere along the line, you must’ve come across a scene similar to the one you’re trying to write. So go find one of those books and take a look at what that author did.
Now before you get your feathers ruffled let me clarify. You are not plagiarising. In fact, get two or three books that have in similar scenes and read them. At their base level they’re not really that different but when you take the author’s writing style into consideration, the genre they’re writing in, the POV being used, etc., you see how they become different. What I’m challenging you to do is get your base scene out. You could just have a brief description as illustrated above, then you can expand on it. Take a look.
- What was Jana doing before she saw this little creature?
- Was she in a situation where she was expecting it?
- Was it something out of the blue?
- How does Jana feel when she sees the gremlin?
- Does everything sort of go into hyper drive for her? Does her breathing quicken, her heart ‘race’? Does she get tunnel vision? Can she still think? Does she just simply panic?
- Does everything slow down? Can she think clearly? Does she feel sluggish? Does she know what to do yet can’t do it?
- Why does she react the way she does? What does the gremlin mean? What danger does it pose to her that makes her so scared?
- What does she notice or think about once she’s trying to get away?
- Her life and how disappointing it’s been?
- How did the gremlin even get inside? Where are the others? (What others?)
- What the hell is that thing? OMG, OMG! Get away!
- Once it’s grabbed her and starts pulling her back, what does she think? How does she feel?
- Noooooooooo! I’m doomed! *tries to get away in pure panic, think wounded or cornered animal*
- This cannot be the end! *scrabble at tiles, possibly loses a fingernail or two, cue blood*
- The sensations of the gremlin’s skin against hers? Is it wet, slimy, icky? Or is it dry, flaky, scratchy? Can she feel claws? Is the grip unbelievably tight? Does it make her feel like throwing up? Maybe crying? Does she feel like the situation is futile?
See the above questions? I thought them up on the spot. Two minutes top. How you ask? Look at my description. I broke it up into tiny bits and asked questions on each. Jana sees scary gremlin poking its head over the desk? So what was she doing before she saw it? She screams, falls backwards and tries to scrabble away? Woah pretty intense. Why’d she do that anyway? What’s she feeling now that she’s seen it? She’s not dead so what does she notice or think while she tries to get away? Oh no! It’s got her! Eeeewwww gremlin slime or are gremlins not slimy? What does she feel? What does she think? That actually made sense didn’t it?
Now there’s a third option I didn’t mention. You could either stop writing the story/ keep writing and rewriting. Basically, they have the same effect in that your writing comes screeching to a halt. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what you’re going for. So what are you waiting for? Get writing.
K, the Popinjay.