Overcooked pasta can be truly nasty! Mushy, flavored like runny starch, it settles in your stomach like a hairball in a cat. Not the most appetizing dinner.
In our writing we often find our scenes as flat as an overcooked noodle. Why don’t they pop off of the page? Why are they boring? Why does it feel as if nothing is happening in the scene?
Chances are you are under a limp noodle attack.
There are a few things that can make your scenes flat enough to leave a mealy taste in a reader’s mouth. How can you change your scene to have conflict, tension, and readers clamoring for the next scene?
Brainstorming Goals For Your Scenes:
Without definitive goals your scenes will fall flat. You already know about goals and scenes, but you can’t figure out yours? Try brainstorming in this progression:
*Determine if the scene is necessary. Ask yourself these questions: What do I want from this scene as an author? Why am I even writing it? What would be missing from my book if I didn’t write this scene?
Knowing what you want from the scene and how it accomplishes your goal will help you to know whether it needs to be cut or not. A tip I learned from Susan May Warren at My Book Therapy is if it doesn’t further the plot, you need to cut the scene.
If you have a scene goal as a writer, it can help you frame the character goal to best achieve your author goal.
*Identify your author goal. This is the answer to the questions in the previous step. By putting your goal on paper you are able to compare it to the end scene to see if it meets your goals and tweak accordingly.
*Identify your point of view character’s goal. What does your character want in this scene? If you don’t know, step back and consider your author goal. Is it an emotional focus goal, or a plot focus goal?
Example of author emotional focus goal: Character will confront their emotions for the other character.
Flip it to a character goal: Lucy wants to tell Sam she loves him.
Example of plot focus goal: Hero will chase villain to a place where he will be caught.
Flip it to a character goal: Sam hopes to find clues at an old abandoned warehouse as to the villain’s identity.
*Identify the obstacles. Simply ask yourself the question, “What will stand in the way of my character reaching their goal?” This will allow you to find conflict for the scene.
Example: With Lucy’s goal above, one big obstacle could be to run into an old girlfriend, or a mother. That would keep her from expressing her feelings.
*Add a Kick of Tension. Ask yourself, “Why should this matter to the reader?” Something I learned from Susan May Warren has helped me immensely in my writing. Tension is that extra kick you add in for what it matters to the reader. Some things the reader naturally cares about, but other things need a bit of additional tension.
Example: With Lucy, you could add in the tension of knowing that Sam is moving in a week. If she doesn’t tell him how she feels, she may never get the chance. Now we care even more.
What is the hardest part of brainstorming goals and obstacles for you?
For more tips on Brainstorming conflict, check out my book: