Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Shoes I Must Keep (RE-POST)

Do you remember my series of posts about organizing my shoe shelf and how it reminded me of revisions? If not you can read them here, here, here, here, and here. Anyway, this picture is the result. (Well, partial result. I couldn't get the whole shelf in the picture, but you get the idea.) Every single pair of shoes that I kept had to stay. They each served a purpose. This is how the scenes in our writing should be. Each one should serve a purpose. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass discusses this at length and points out that authors often fail at this, especially in the middle parts of the book. It is drilled into our heads how important beginnings and endings are, so we tend to focus on these areas. But aren't our middles just as important? Maass gives us tips for making our middle scenes just as unforgettable as our beginnings and endings, and I'll be discussing this topic for the rest of the week. According to Maass, dialogue is a powerful tool during our middle scenes. It can help define the purpose of the scene; it can help build tension; and it can pump fire into otherwise forgettable scenes. Yes, it can do all of this, if it is strong and taut. So, how do we accomplish that? Well, Maass suggests stripping our dialogue down, and then pumping it back up. In other words, get rid of all incidental action and any unnecessary attributives. If the action doesn't tell the reader something, and the attributive isn't needed for clarification, it only bogs down the scene. Are your middle scenes as pumped up as your beginnings and endings, or could they use a little work? Have you tried tightening up the dialogue?

15 comments:

Danyelle said...

Great post, Susan. :)I think that sometimes we forget how important it is to be brilliant the whole way through. It's not enough to start well or end well.

Melanie's Randomness said...

This is exactly what I've been doing. Organizing my scenes. I really don't want a write a book like I used to write my school papers, ya know start in the beginning strong & then have fluff & then end strong. These are great tips!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Hi, Susan, I do remember this post. A wise one!

Dominique said...

I remember these posts. They were a great series.

It's a timely reminder too. I'm in the middle of my middle, and I already know it doesn't have all the fire and tension I'd like it to have. I sense major chopping work in this sections future.

Dominique said...

Also, I left you an award on my blog. :)

http://mavieenviolet.blogspot.com/2010/02/thank-nikki.html

Paul Greci said...

I'm working on this with my rewrite, looking at every scene to see if it should stay or go, and how it should change. Thanks, Susan!

Elana Johnson said...

I so agree that every scene should contribute something important to the novel. They should gently pull the reader along to the conclusion, just like your shoes pull you along to your destination.

And dialog is a great tool to do it. :) Excellent post!

Dawn Simon said...

I do remember. I love your shoe analogies.

I have something for you at my blog. :)

Tamika: said...

I love that you are reairing this series while I'm actually reading the book. It really drives everything home.

I actually like my middles better than anything right now. Weird.

Angie Muresan said...

Great re-post, Susan! I have a strong story all around. I actually love it a lot.

K. M. Walton said...

I feel fairly confident that my middle scenes are strong. I am a sucker for a fast paced read and I tried to keep the pace in my MG novel.

p.s. you have an award waiting for you over at my blog...

Name: Holly Bowne said...

I know you said this is a re-post, but it could not have been more timely for me since I'm smack in the middle right now. That's helpful advice about using dialogue, I'll have to peek back through what I've written and see exactly what I've done in that regard.

MG Higgins said...

It's been a while since I read Maass's book. Your post has inspired me--I think it's time for a re-read.

Erica said...

Good Stuff! I need to re- read it now too! I try to always make my dialogue directional free, but sometimes, you need some just to know where you're going! Love this series ;o)

Anonymous said...

I love writing and I love shoes! Thanks for combining them both in this post =-) Love it!