what changes you bring

I’m writing by the seat of my pants this summer more than I ever have. It’s a lot of things–weird, wonderful, exciting, terrifying, roundabout, experimental, liberating, and slow-going.

Every novel I’ve written teaches me something. Sometimes the lessons came in failures. Others were simply in the practice of doing.

This pantsing summer for me has taught me much in the practice of doing (there’s plenty of lessons via failure, as well, I’m sure). How it feels awkward and stumbly, a bit like blindfolding myself over a tightrope of questionable stability.

There’s lots for me to cling to, to reinforce my sense of balance, of direction, and trust. After all, I’ve written a scene or two before. And dialog, physical conflict, emotions, all that good fictiony stuff. Now, instead of having a lot of these juicy bits planned out, prepared for, researched, and imagined, they come out as they come out.

It’s kinda neat.

One thing I still can’t rely on to come out by itself is mission-driven scene execution.

Someone really oughtta come up with a better name for it than that, because I can’t say that start to finish without biting my poor tongue. Mission-driven scenes really just means every scene has a goal, and knowing that goal helps carve out what needs to go in that scene.

Or put more poetically, what changes you bring (to the story).

Today I’m working on a scene in which a character learns a new piece of information. Often, this can be the change and that’s enough. But this new information, which she intentionally sought, doesn’t move the story forward–it’s a dead end. There’s nothing she can do as a response, other than say “oh, well, I tried.” I close the door on her, without opening a window or at least setting the house on fire.

The scene doesn’t bring any real change (new information that can/must be acted upon, raised stakes, escalated conflict, accelerated time-bomb, created a need, destroyed something important), and that’s a problem.

So that’s my new question: what change do I bring in this scene?


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