M. B. Weston’s Writing Diary: Dual Duty Scenes = Action + Character Development 02/17/15

As I work through the first draft of this urban fantasy pulp novella, I keep trying to remind myself of three things:
–The scene in Sweet Home Alabama where the heroine tells her dad she is getting married.
Indiana Jones
Lethal Weapon

What do they all have in common, and why would I remind myself of them as I’m writing a high-action story?

Their scenes pull double duty: they pull the plot along and develop character at the same time.

In Sweet Home Alabama, the book, I believe the heroine tells her father about her upcoming nuptials while in his trailer. The screen writers thought it needed pop, so they had her tell Daddy during a civil war reenactment, which adds to the comedy and tells us a little bit more about Dad. When I first read about that change in one of Syd Field’s screenplay writing books, it realigned how I wrote dialogue-only scenes.

The same with movies like Lethal Weapon and Indiana Jones. The discoveries the characters make about the villains happen on the run. So does the character development. No scene is wasted.

I’m working out this lovely scene where my heroine and hero have a conversation about something that happened to her. It’s riddled with problems:
–it happened to her. I only write from Michael’s point of view. What happened to her is massively intense, and it would be amazing if I wrote it in such a way that Michael (and therefore the reader) could be there when I first bring out the zombie creatures.
–The are relaxing with a cup of tea while they talk. This can work in a novel, but I have 30,000 rapidly disappearing words I have to work around. I don’t have time for boring small talk, even if it develops character, which it has. I need to develop character and progress plot at the same time. Boring small talk has to happen on the run.
–I’m bored. If I’m. Bored, so is the reader.

If I can somehow make this scene occur during action, I might be able to make it work. 🙂 That will be tomorrow’s task.

How about you? Have you ever tried to make your scenes pull double duty?

Too flea!

About M. B. Weston

M. B. Weston is an award-winning fantasy, pulp, young adult, steampunk, and paranormal author. Her attention to procedure and detail gives her works an authentic gritty, military feel that takes an adventure tale to the level of a true page-turner. Weston’s writing attracts both fantasy and non-fantasy readers, and her audience ranges from upper-elementary students to adults. A gifted orator, Weston has been invited as a guest speaker to numerous writing and science fiction/fantasy panels at conventions across the US, including DragonCon, BabelCon, NecronomiCon, and Alabama Phoenix Festival. She has served on panels with such authors as Sherrilyn Kenyon, J. F. Lewis, Todd McCaffrey, and Jonathan Maberry. Weston has spoken to thousands of students and adults about the craft of writing and has been invited as the keynote speaker at youth camps and at several schools throughout the US.
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5 Responses to M. B. Weston’s Writing Diary: Dual Duty Scenes = Action + Character Development 02/17/15

  1. rhunsinger says:

    Perfect M.B.! That’s how to maximize it! Same with your earlier post on relating story information without creating the dreaded information dump! I am amped to read this story…. get back to it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. M. B. Weston says:

    Thanks! I’m just hoping I can take my own advice and execute this thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. John says:

    Having stuff doing double duty. It is a concept I just learned about a year ago from watching a video on Brandon Sanderson. I am still working out/discovering my writing process, but I think it is doable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • M. B. Weston says:

      I’m having to remind myself of it. My rough draft process is kind of a cross between an outline and a rough draft. If the conversation needs to happen, I write the conversation and make a note inside brackets that I need to come back and give it some action. This ha seen a really difficult rough draft to write because it’s got so much action in it, and action is hard to write. Well, it’s complex… This one is going to need a lot of cleaning up in the second draft.

      Liked by 1 person

    • M. B. Weston says:

      And I think when I go back and do a re-read, I’m going to find a lot of scenes I can condense or add either plot or character development. Thank goodness for computers 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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