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Writing Big Scenes in Fiction

Writing Big Scenes in Fiction


Let me ask you a question.

Do you avoid / dread / loathe writing the big scenes in your fiction?

Over the years I've noticed two things happening when it comes to big scenes in many aspiring authors' manuscripts.

One, the newbie author is so nervous about writing the big important scene that they will subconsciously avoid it by taking ages to get to that part in the story.

Here's how that goes:

There's a crucial scene in the story where there's a confrontation or a climactic event - and the writer is creeping toward it, filling the pages with exposition and preparatory dialogue - only to freeze just before the big scene

They may even then STOP and put off writing - sometimes for months or, in some cases, years. 

They're actually afraid of writing the big scene.

Two, the other scenario involves glossing over the part in the story where the big scene should be. 

You'll often see writers fill pages with the run up to the big event, often very nice showing instead of telling in real time and yet, when it comes to the big scene, everything stops, a new chapter starts and then the event is told from a distance or from an uninvolved point of view or, most commonly, from a retrospective point of view, after the event.

This practice might seem strange, though I can confirm it's fairly common.

I guess it's related to the idea that writers are sometimes afraid to confront their own deepest emotions. 

I think that in the same way that most sane people avoid confrontation, writers will avoid opening themselves up to a challenge.

But you have to remember: 

Climactic set pieces make very compelling reading. 

Writers are often judged by their ability to pull off action-centered drama - and perhaps that's the problem. 

Authors don't always want to be judged by writing that is focussed, action-based and graphic as an open wound.

We'd prefer to hide behind the relative comfort of internal dialogue, character exposition and literary description. Mistake!

'Big scenes' normally involve heightened emotion - something not all writers are comfortable describing - because I assume they're worried that their particular experience of heightened emotion seems so personal - even private.

But that's the point. 

Readers want to know what other people's heightened emotions are like! 

They want to experience the thrill of adventure, danger, risk, marriage, death, murder and the myriad of other BIG emotions any one of us may fall victim to.

It's important not to shy away from the challenging - in life and your writing. 

Stretching yourself makes you grow. 

Growth helps you gain wisdom and enable you to lead a more fulfilling life.

Plus, you don't have to actually drive Speedway cars to describe the thrill of it. 

You can use your imagination - that's what it's for - and describe what you feel for the benefit of your reader.

In a sense, that's your job: to give a reader the experience of 'being there' without having to leave his or her armchair.

You owe it to your reader to confront the big scenes.

If you shy away from confronting exciting dramatic set pieces in your fiction, as an exercise, try writing JUST big scenes, especially if you're a little afraid of them.

Pick a word count, say one-thousand words, and write only action, drama, and conflict. 

I think you'll find that these set-pieces are very satisfying to complete, even if they might take just a little longer to get right.

Get straight into the action. 

Keep the sentences relatively short and describe ONLY what is happening in real time with no reflection, exposition, or internal dialogue.

I'm sure you'll benefit as a writer - and so will your reader.

Keep Writing!

Rob Parnell

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