Thursday, 20 October 2011

Five ways to banish drama from your scenes


In case you ever find yourself writing a scene that's breathtakingly dramatic, here are five ways to ensure you bring it back down to earth and wash it clean of anything remotely compelling.

Drama is not debate

Come on, admit it – the real reason you became a writer is because you have so much to say but no-one ever listens. It's ok, it's understandable. Writing provides a way of ramming your opinions down your readers' throats with no chance of a comeback. Cunningly get your characters to talk about the issues you wish to educate the reader about - even better than that, use your characters as mouth-pieces for your own opinions. Character is secondary to the things you want to say. It's called your distinct voice - use it.

Drama is not then but now

Drama is not what has happened but what is happening. Remember that and you're in danger of entertaining – stop right there – it's not about them, the readers, it's about you, the writer. Crafting an immediate scene takes time and effort and life is too short for all that. Better to get your characters to statically discuss traumatic events from your own life thereby exorcising your demons as if they were the character's own. Genius. This also means you won't have to spend countless hours inventing backgrounds and providing motivations for your characters.

And what's the point of showing when you can tell? Telling allows you to interpret for the reader and prevents them using their own imagination. You don't want them sullying your intended purpose with their own interpretations.

Drama is not what is being said but what is happening

Yep there is a difference, and it can get confusing - therefore remove all action from your scene. Some writers are masterful at a sub-textual drama lurking beneath the words the characters are saying – the characters' words belying their wants. Subtle, and deeply pretentious. Why waste an opportunity to directly express the issues you, the author, have to express? This is about educating the reader with your superior and refined opinions, not entertaining them with complex chicanery.

Drama is not scenery

...but scene – a subtle distinction the self-obsessed writer can happily ignore. Here's an opportunity to really practice your purple prose with pages and pages of pointless description. Be careful to avoid heightening the drama by describing relevant details - focus on the irrelevant – this ensures that you highlight for the reader your exquisite wordsmithery without letting anything (like drama or story) get in the way. With exhilarating drama people don't notice the words used to convey it – and that's the last thing you want.

Drama is not exposition

You go to the trouble of thinking a little about your characters background – you have to make sure you include all that material otherwise you're just wasting your time. You want the reader to know how much effort you've put into this thing. Why show the tip of the iceberg when you can drag the whole thing up and dump it on the page? If you've got the material you'd be a fool not to use it.

4 comments:

  1. Insightful post on an original topic... Glad I found your blog, James! My agent suggested I elongate the dramatic ending of my novel -- made a HUGE, positive difference.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for your post, August, and I'm glad you like the blog. Drawing out the drama - now that's a topic worthy of another post alone. Good to meet you and well done on the agent front. Hope all goes well.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great (and humorous!) post on common first draft problems. It would be helpful for beta readers and critique groups to refer to.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Ruth - glad you liked it and thank you for taking the time to comment.

    ReplyDelete