If your scenes bore you, the reader will experience the same feeling but amplified by 150. That is why it is crucial that you understand what is wrong and how to solve it.
In this article I will present some methods to make your scenes more interesting. I will also list some mistakes that you are likely to find in your story.
If the scene you have just written has nothing interesting in it, decide its purpose before writing.
Organize whatever you may need.
Decide all the characters that will appear and why, what purpose they have at that moment. Make it clear what will happen, what will be revealed and what will be hidden.
What will be discovered and how this will move the narrative forward. Decide the locations, the weather, the temperature. Whatever will help you write a scene, decide it before you start.
There would be no Snow White without the Evil Queen. No Dorian Gray without his portrait. Nor would there be Addie LaRue without a curse.
There would be no story without conflict.
All those I used as examples are major problems but in the course of the story they caused other minor conflicts. The main obstacle is what allows the story to move forward of course, but it is not the only one.
Many of the conflicts are caused by how the protagonists deal with it. In the story as in life you cannot all get along all the time, and this you have to show through your writing. A story is also made up of many other small conflicts, especially between characters.
There are all kinds of conflicts, here are some examples:
- They can’t decide who is in charge
- They disagree on how to deal with something
- They want to prioritise different things
- Their feelings towards each other prevent them from cooperating
- They blame each other for an accident
The 5 senses
If the scene seems flat and without character, you are not using all 5 senses. Of course, this is not always compulsory.
I don’t always want to know if it smells like stew or if the candy tastes like vanilla rather than chocolate. But, often sight and hearing are privileged throughout the story and this leads us to have a limited view of what surrounds the protagonists.
If you are describing a new place, I want to know exactly what the character feels about being there and why. I want to know what I would feel if I were with him.
Would I be hot?
Would I be annoyed by the loud noise of the trains?
You have to give this information if you want readers to really get into the story and forget reality.
Sometimes it is precisely the simplest things that make a scene boring. Dialogue is very important because it determines every relationship our character has with others.
A great tip I can give you to make dialogue more interesting is to pretend that your character cannot say what he really thinks. Especially his feelings.
Is he in love? He will show interest in the other character’s health and mood but won’t say it directly.
He is angry, he will certainly not say it but he will show it through certain gestures and words.
Is he watching a show that bores him? He won’t say I’m bored, instead he will ask “how long until the end?”.
These are simple changes but they will make the characters more alive and real.
If your character has to make an important choice, make it difficult. As difficult as possible. It must weigh heavily on the emotions of those who have to make it.
Let everyone’s anxiety and agitation leak out at the thought of the consequences. Make it clear that this is crucial for everyone’s future.
Above all, an important choice must be irreversible, once made you must make it almost impossible for the characters to go back. This is what will give value to the whole scene and also to those yet to come.
(And of course, if you seek conflict, make sure they make the wrong decision.)
5 things you are doing wrong
You are focusing too much on a single character
That’s often how stories are born: you come up with a specific character, his past, what makes him suffer, what he will have to face during the plot. Everything he represents.
But many people make the mistake of thinking that you can base an entire story on a single character. That’s normal, of course you will focus on the main character but there is not only him.
There cannot be only one active character while the others are all passive, in the background.
All the people he communicates with during his journey must be exactly like him, alive and with their own voice. Sometimes one makes the mistake of focusing a scene solely on the thoughts and actions of the protagonist and this makes it very narrow and prevents the reader from getting the full picture.
A magic trick to get closer to the other characters is to write an entire page from their point of view. In this way, you can better understand their story, their motivations and what drives them to be the way they are.
A perfect example of this is the famous Harry Potter; every single character has their own story, some appear more and some less, but they are all equally alive. And above all, everyone has their own unique personality and way of doing things.
Too much dialogue
I have already told you about the importance of having a balance between dialogue and description/action, but here I remind you.
In fact, it is one of the things I see happen most often in beginner writers’ writing. It is completely normal to make this mistake at first and the best advice I can give you is to read. Reading will help you improve any aspect of your writing but especially this one.
Read the stories of great writers with a critical eye and strive to understand what it is that makes their stories so attractive and fascinating. And how you can do the same in yours.
Study the dialogues and what makes them realistic in your eyes.
There are no goals to achieve
The scene is useless, its absence would change nothing in the story. This mistake often appears at the editing stage, and it is perfectly fine.
When you are writing the first draft concentrate solely on writing to complete the story. Once that is done, the real work comes. You have to read your story carefully and realise which scenes are needed and which are completely unnecessary for the progress of the plot.
When you find them, no matter how fond you may be of them, you have two options:
- Turn them into something useful that relates to other points in the manuscript
- Eliminate them mercilessly
Take your time to think about which option you prefer but NEVER leave unnecessary scenes. They must either advance the story or advance the characters. Always.
Don’t drag the scene
We often tend to focus on the quantity of words rather than their meaning. But this is one of the main things that makes the reader bored in the long run. And after the third yawn, your book will end up in the ‘I will never finish it’ category.
Many scenes, particularly distressing ones, need to get a message across and the best way is with few words. Especially if the characters are panicked, make the reading impatient, rushed, the reading must leave the reader with palpitations as well.
Remember that the ultimate goal is for the reader to ‘feel’ what your characters are feeling. Not that they just read it. And this brings me to my next point.
Remember the most important thing
You must repeat this like a mantra while writing. SHOW DON’T TELL.
You will have heard it a ton of times from any person giving you advice on writing. But there is a reason it is repeated to the point of boredom, it is the simple truth. If you tell the reader the story he can never be immersed in it.
Sure, he will know what is happening and with whom. But he will not feel anything. He will not know how the characters are living the situation, he will never be able to enter your story and lock himself in that world until the last page. In short, you take away from your readers what they love most.
Tell: She was sad.
Show: Tears were streaming down her face
Tell: He was tall
Show: They all had to lift their heads to look him in the eyes
Of course you can’t “show” for your whole story. Just like you can’t tell everything. You have to find a balance here too. (yes you can’t escape)
Do you need a beta-reader?
A beta-reader is a person who will read your manuscript, analyse it with the eyes of a normal reader and tell you what does not work and whether the story flows well. This article explains everything you need to know.
Follow the blog on Pinterest to keep up to date and don’t miss anything!
If you liked this article, you may also find the following articles helpful: