My WIP’s Fourth Revision
I fell out off our roof and cracked ribs. But don’t worry…it only hurts when I laugh…or cough. And I have a cough, too. But pain meds are wonnnnnnderrrrrrrrfulllllll. Ha.
I didn’t get as much done as I’d expected, but I did revise my Dramatic Scenes. And I’m almost afraid to look at what I did write. Yikes.
What did I change?
I’ve talked about dramatic scenes in other posts. I have forty-one dramatic scenes, the largest scene type in my WIP, for this go around. Some time ago I refined my checklist for Dramatic Scenes, which was easy to do since I already had text to work with. Still, I seldom revised more than two scenes in a day, even when the form was almost right.
I tried to be systematic about revising each scene. I started with my scene summary. Here is an example:
S97 – But Deheya’s attack to liberate the Capital fails and she is locked in a stalemate with Christor’s surviving soldiers and Christor’s army is about to enter the Capital. DRAMATIC – DECISION – She decides she must stay to keep faith with her supporters while spiriting Regar out of the city.
In my checklist I copied the decision in at the top of my checklist — She decides she must stay to keep faith with her supporters while spiriting Regar out of the city. And this became the defining moment of the scene, the thing that every paragraph must lead to.
Then I went to work on my opening, paragraphs, aiming to establish that something was not right in the scene, building in tension and foreboding from the beginning. My note read like this: dead and dying supporters are all around her — they did rescue the children, and Li Van is dead, but Grimn is missing and they still don’t have control of the city.
The next thing to consider, right up in the beginning, was my MC’s intention. So I wrote some more notes: how does she keep faith with all those who sacrificed themselves while safeguarding her son?
Once we got down into the heart of the scene, I had to decide whether I would see a lot of hot emotion splashing around, or would all that be repressed? For this character, at this point in her arc, she is holding a lot of things in. So, I wrote this note: she controls her emotions because getting upset and angry will change nothing, and she needs a clear head.
Next up, I wanted emotional complications to arise. Not that her path is free and easy, I wanted things to be harder for her. So I wrote this note:
Confrontations, reunions, borrowed time, crushed expectations, threat of bodily harm or death She is living on borrowed time because Christor’s main army will crash through to the city any time now.
Finally, we arrived at her choice, which would either be a good one or a bad one. I decided her choice would be for the best: She decides to stay to share the fate of the people…but is reluctantly agrees to send Regar to hoped-for safety.
To create the emotional effect I wanted, I made sure almost all my description was up in the first three or four paragraphs, to ground her. Then, as she moves toward that decision point, with all the other pressure mounting on her, I began relying more and more on dialog, usually in short, sharp exchanges, to carry the scene. I way cut back description of her emotion, physical sensations and action beats.
I used this basic structure forty-one times. I think I got better at it as I went, but I will want to read the earlier attempts to make sure they are as sharp as the later ones. One of my Trusted Reader’s most hurtful praises was that the story really picked up about half way through Part One. I need it to pick up from Scene One.
Next up? Suspense scenes. Forty of them. Queue up the Hitchcock music.
Read about Suspense Scenes.