Revising My WIP
Writing Contemplation Scenes
In our ADHD Twitterverse don’t we want non-stop action, and a thrill beyond that next turn?
Well, we might think we do, but we’d suffer heart attacks and strokes before we finished reading our stories.
So, what can we use them for?
Sometimes, our POV character needs to stop, take a deep breath, and figure out what to do next. While she thinks about everything that has happened and where she wanted to go, we get to peek inside her head. We can come very close to telling (which most experts assure is poor writing).
Do I want to use this device very often? Nope. And never early in my story, even though that is when I am most tempted.
So that we understand, I’m using Jordan Rosenfeld’s template for contemplation scenes, as she wrote about them in Make A Scene. When I started my story, I had no idea how many contemplation scenes to expect. I have 94 scenes in my story. Nine of them are contemplation scenes, of which six fall into the Denouement.
What am I trying to do in a contemplation scene?
I am looking into my POV character’s mind, thinking their thoughts, feeling their emotions, and watching them make sense of their world.
Let’s imagine a scene were our MC has just escaped by the skin of her teeth, swinging on vines through a rain forest, and swims the alligator infested river to the far bank. Now hidden, she watches the bad guys milling over there, betting on whether she made it across or not.
We all know what comes next.
What was all that?
What do I do now?
So, what does a dramatic scene look like?
Every scene has an opening, and we need to let readers know they have entered a contemplation scene. Time stops. She won’t be chased, at least for a while.
We might start with inner monologue, and this works well in Jack Bickham’s Scene-and-Sequel construct.
We could lead in with setting description, especially if our new scene isn’t really connected to our prior scene. And we have a chance to use some of those details to highlight our POV character’s inner workings.
We could use action which ties us to our prior scene, again using Bickham’s construct.
Then we move into the middle where our POV character lives in her own mind for a while, and we use a lot of inner monologue. Our POV is trying connect her emotions with her external world, and is probably trying to come to a decision, as well as understanding the usual conflicts, threats, andproblems confronting her.
When we tie our POV’s internal world to her external world, we watch her thoughts form, emotions flow, and see how she thinks and makes decisions.
If we make her internal struggle active, we will draw our readers in. Confronting her inner fears while she struggles with unknowns is wonderfully compelling.
If our POV spends at least a little time interacting with her environment, we give the illusion of movement and keep ourselves from falling into the talking heads trap.
And, since we are inside our POV’s head, we expect to hear her inner monologue while she talk things through with herself.
Finally, we close our scene.
We don’t want to happen is to drain all tension and movement out of our story with these scenes. So we ease out POV to pull back out into the fast lane. Maybe she doesn’t get a chance to finish their pity party before the world crashes in on her. She might decided to do something. Or she might decide something ominous is happening.
After that, we can go back into our story.
How did I do in using contemplation space in my scenes
I used Contemplation Scenes nine times.
- My first was scene number fourteen, well into Part One.
- My second was my Mid Point where my story shifted from Part Two to Part Three.
- My third happened when I changed gears in Part Four and shifted from my MC dealing with external threats to confronting inner threats.
- And my last six scenes comprised my Denouement.
I’m reasonably comfortable with where and how I used my first three contemplative scenes.
In Part One, my MC is trying to make sense of the tangled web she finds herself in. Some of it is her own making, but some of it isn’t. She wants to be pure again and do good deeds. And she thinks she finds a way to do it. Of course, it only plants future complications.
When I transitioned from Part Two to Part Three, my MC had been through an almost unimaginable trial, and finds her way to her safe haven. Only, is it really safe? Of course not. We still have half my story to go through.
In Part Four, my MC leads her army into a great battle to decide the fate of two peoples. She overcomes the greatest of her external threats, but she still has to deal with her inner demons. And she needs to purge herself of her doubts and summon enough courage to surrender herself to her enemies, to be willing to sacrifice her life to reach her goal.
I also tried to use Contemplation template for my denouement. But she wound up in conversations with people, so I’m wondering if I should returned to Dialog templates. At any rate, I didn’t spring any new information, although I hinted at future problems if I decide to write a sequel. And I kept tension and conflict to a minimum.
I have thirteen scenes to revise. Four of them are special scenes (First, Epiphany, Climax, and Final), plus nine scenes I didn’t write because I didn’t know which type to use, or was afraid to write them.
I will try my nine left-overs before revising my special scenes. I divided them up, and I have five dramatic scenes and four suspense scenes. Most of them are big, and I don’t expect them to yield their secrets easily.