A. L. Buehrer What I Write and Why

Monday, July 20, 2015

Don't Do The Dress-Up Scene


I might find this cliché less cliché, if I had at some point experienced something like it in real life. Maybe this actually happens among some people, but as far as I know, it mainly happens in dumb novels.
  And even in some not-so-dumb novels. In fact, the example I’m thinking of is from none other than C.S. Lewis’s none other than Space Trilogy. In the third book, That Hideous Strength, there is a scene near the end where the ladies of the story are preparing for…a banquet, or something of the sort. (Frankly, That Hideous Plot really confused me.) They all are dressing up for the occasion in some fantastic clothes, which, though they would probably amaze me if I saw them, always fail to impress me when mentioned in this kind of context. There’s a lot of general oohing and ahhing—you know, like ladies do…about clothes.
  Okay. So I’ve revealed that I’m not a girly girl. My point is, whether or not these things actually take place among more typical humans, how hard-hitting and memorable is this scene? Of course, in Lewis’s version of this scene, they are at the same time talking about other things besides just the gorgeous gowns. If they weren’t, the scene would be absolutely superfluous, and I would be pretty disappointed in Lewis. But, seeing as the scene shouldn’t be completely deleted, what would you do to fix the predictability of it all?
  Predictability is deadly. Readers are bored to death with it. As soon as I see the author setting up for this scene I think, “Okay, here we go again.” The combination of the flurry of sumptuous lace and ruffles, girlish twitter, and perhaps some demonstration of how the characters’ relationships have developed, you really don’t have to keep reading to know what is going to happen.
  It’s important to have unique scenes in your story. The more creative your settings and situations are, the more impact they will have. It’s true. Think about times when you were in an odd place, doing something unusual. You remember times like these. When you’re an author, you have the ability to manipulate setting and situation to your advantage. You aren’t restrained to use anything just because you think it’s typical.
  If you’re going to have a scene where your female characters are talking—hopefully in a way that moves the plot—try something new, something that will engage your readers.
  Try interesting things:

·         Hiding from a freak hailstorm in a telephone booth
·         Doing maintenance on an ancient pipe-organ
·         Walking the rails on a railroad bridge
·         Swimming underneath the docks at a public beach

You get the idea I think. These kinds of scenes will force you to be creative, rather than following the molds of a hundred scenes you’ve read just like this. If more novels had more scenes like this, more novels would be unforgettable.


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