That problem scene

You suddenly realize you can fix it.  The problem with That One Scene isn’t the events, nor the point of view; nor really the pacing. The problem is the feel–the taste left in the reader’s aural mouth at the end of it.  You accidentally let slip an implication that one character is less concerned than you wanted her to be, or that another is distracted about whole ‘nother part of the book, or they’re failing to respond to something you were sure they had to respond to, so it just leaves a taste like a gin & tonic when the tonic’s gone flat.  You don’t want that taste on the reader’s tongue going into the next scene, because at best it will knock the reader out of the story a bit, and at worst it will give the false impression that this is another kind of story altogether, leading to disappointment either now, or when it proves not to be.

You are pleased.  Now you see the problem.  Fixing that one thing in that one scene can redirect the entire book, and make the payoff feel like a payoff, the resolution feel like a resolution; it sets up the Happy Reader Sigh when the reader (slowly and a little regretfully) sets  down the book and goes,”Yeah, that was a BOOK.”

Just that one scene can do it, and now you’ve spotted it.  Now it is just a simple matter of fixing it by removing a couple of words. Or adding a couple.  Or rewriting it with different characters or different events.  Or changing everything in the book that leads up to it, and then everything that follows from it.

Well, thank Christ you’ve found it.

Best of luck with that.


Published by

Avatar photo


I play the drum.

11 thoughts on “That problem scene”

  1. Yah. Fixing up a few of these in my first few chapters so that I can finally get going on the last third of my WIP, which didn’t want to co-operate because it knew there were WRONG THINGS in its first third.
    As the song says: I feel better now.

  2. We are all grateful for the hard work you put into removing a couple of words. Or adding a couple. Or rewriting that scene with different characters or different events. Or changing everything in the book that leads up to it, and then everything that follows from it.

  3. I said, ‘A line will take us hours maybe;
    Yet if it does not seem a moment’s thought,
    Our stitching and unstitching has been naught.
    Better go down upon your marrow-bones
    And scrub a kitchen pavement, or break stones
    Like an old pauper, in all kinds of weather;
    For to articulate sweet sounds together
    Is to work harder than all these, and yet
    Be thought an idler by the noisy set
    Of bankers, schoolmasters, and clergymen
    The martyrs call the world.’

    From “Adam’s Curse” by W.B. Yeats

  4. I have always been of two minds about what Yeats says here…on the one hand, I am pretty sure he never did heavy manual labor for a living, which makes it a rather offensively ignorant claim. On the other hand, well, that problem scene!

  5. But surely you can fix these simply by asking “What would Paarfi do?” and then do the opposite.

  6. Paarfi is not the problem. Strangely He’s part of the solution.

    Learn to laugh at your own puffery and the puffery of your own words as you eat them… and spew them anew upon the page…

    I’m convinced that Paarfi is having a good laugh at our expense while he drinks our wine, steals our women, and writes in flourid pomposity our lack of standing to deny him.

    As for myself can see that have yet to lift myself from my own bafoonery. ‘Taint nobody’s fault but my own… and at this late date all I have are some lyrics and what not…

    By the way Steve if you haven’t see it before, somebody has named their company Teckla.

  7. Tekla is actually a traditional Yiddish name. I stole it from the name of my grandfather’s neurotic and annoying miniature schnauzer.

Leave a Reply