Revising Your Creative Fiction Writing Help
Revising: Check Your Scenes for Action, Wants, and Subtlety
Jordan Rosenfeld, author of Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, thinks of scenes as using different amounts of the same ingredients, depending on the use of the scene toward the story's goals. One ingredient is what the characters want, both overall in the story and in any particular scene. Another ingredient is action. Something has to happen in a scene. "Scenes function as a bit of a chain reaction; one scene builds upon another, upon another, upon another until we get a full sense of the world" inside the story. A third ingredient is subtlety.
When you are revising what you have written, go through your work and see where you might build longer scenes rather than move through events too quickly for the reader who wants to feel as if he or she is in the scene with your characters. Think about where events lend themselves to slowing time down and moving the reader closer to the emotional core of your story.
Look for places that you have created repetitive scenes when one summary scene can let readers know something about your character's personality or dilemma.
Look to see if you emphasized scenes with dialog when they would serve the larger story better as silent scenes.
Finally, locate the places where protagonist and antagonist face off or where an insight is arising for the protagonist. Practice combining dialog with images from the place the scene is happening to build a long scene that reads as if the action is happening in the now of the story.
Working on Subplots
What is a subplot? It is a smaller story inside a larger story and it illuminates the life, times, personalities, themes, and issues of the main characters, often by introducing peripheral characters and events.
In novels (and in films) subplots are typically the place that readers make their identification with the main character. Writing for the website helium. com, freelance editor Leigha Comer writes about the wildly successful Harry Potter novels:
How many people reading these books can sit there and understand how it feels to have a crazed, evil wizard try to kill us? Probably not too many. But how many of us know how it feels to lose a loved one, to have a crush, to fight with our best friends, or to despise someone so much that we consider them our greatest rival? Without its subplots, I can guarantee that the Harry Potter books wouldn't be the success that they currently are. While none of us can go to Hogwarts, or pick up a wand and perform magic, we can still identify with Harry and other characters in the books. And with all of these different things going on in Harry's life, and all the day to day problems, it becomes believable and true to real life.
Comer reminds us that in life, we are never confronting a single problem. Even as our boss is making life miserable for us, we also have situations in our personal and social lives. That's what makes life interesting and seeing the main characters in several aspects of their lives makes them believable to us. How they cope in the many aspects of their lives helps us understand them better. Is the person who has the difficult boss, Comer asks, ignoring her children and husband to show she can do the job at work?
I think of the television series Nurse Jackie here. The main character's work with patients and co-workers at a hospital is the main plot. Her life with her two daughters and her husband is a subplot. The way she seems always to halfheartedly spend time with them as opposed to her deep involvement in the high stakes world of the ER where she works informs readers about who she is and the risks of doing the kind of work she does. She has many secrets concerning drug and sex addiction, and as she tries to compartmentalize them in the different areas of her life, they threaten to get out. This adds suspense for the viewer.
Even in short fiction, which usually doesn't have well-developed subplots and focuses on one event, thinking about the character's life outside the event pays off. Comer asserts that "when writing your story about a person on a sinking ship, don't concentrate solely on the fact that the person needs to escape. Add some internal dialogue about that distant lover, and make it so that the urge to be together fuels your protagonist's will to live."
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