What makes a scene necessary?

As I'm doing my revision one of the main things I have to look for are unnecessary scenes. Why would anyone (why would I) write unnecessary scenes in the first place? Hmm. Something to ponder. So I as I'm revising, I run across a scene that I LOVE because it has lots of sexual tension in it. But if I removed the scene would the book as a whole suffer? Nope. Sadly.

So I go searching through my books on writing, looking for references to scenes and what makes them necessary or not. I am frantic to save this scene from the scrap heap. I glance through GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon. (One of the best books ever for fiction writers and I highly recommend it.) I discover that a scene needs to have 3 reasons for existence and one of those reasons should be either showing progress toward a goal, strengthening / changing motivation or conflict with opposing forces. She then goes on to say the other 2 reasons for a "scene can be anything you want." An example from the book is showing "sexual tension." Whew! I have one good reason for my scene. Another is "foreshadowing" which this scene is doing. In addition, I found 2 more reasons. I do have some conflict in the scene between the hero and heroine. But I can intensify the conflict if I bring in a secondary character. I’m confident this will fix the problem, and allows me to play up those other 5 reasons for having the scene. Plus it connects a previous event and a one that happens later in the book.

Upcoming are more weak scenes that I must whip into shape. Or cut. I confess I got distracted by the celebration going on. Imagining how people celebrated a certain holiday in the Highlands four hundred years ago is difficult. I wanted my research to be accurate and unfortunately my other story elements fell by the wayside as a result. What was I thinking? I still need conflict, tension and all that other meaty, page-turning stuff. Brainstorming is my preferred method of dealing with problems such as this. I can do it. Not to worry. :-)

Above is a picture I took of the mountains last fall.


Anonymous said...

Ugh. I know the feeling, Vonda. Except, I must write in a very linear fashion because when I did my latest revisions (you know the ones I'm talking about!) the only scenes I could remove without totally screwing up the plot, were the love scenes! Which, in itself, is a lesson, right? Love scenes need to have just as much GMC as any other scene....certainly more than just satisfying the sexual tension. In my 2nd ms, I tried making a GMC chart for each scene to ensure the scene was absolutely necessary. Not sure how successful it was...

Vonda Sinclair said...

That's smart, Randy. I work out the GMC for the whole story beforehand but not for each scene. I write in non-linear way. A scene comes to me and I write it no matter if it goes in the middle of the book and I'm working toward the beginning. I sometimes write out of order like that and then shuffle the scenes around, like putting a jigsaw puzzle together. I hope you hear great news from your submission! :-)