Hello, writers. I don’t see movies very often, and it seems maybe the last one I saw was Alice In Wonderland.
Good movie, but it had a chase scene in it. Chase scenes always bother me. I imagine an old-fashioned silent-movie title flashing onto the screen that says The Chase Scene after which the characters go through a long, long series of near-escapes, prat falls, and vine-swingings. Then our heroes get away, and they and the audience can heave a sigh of relief because The Chase Scene is over.
Less obviously, a lot of novels have “why did we go there and do that?” scenes. Including, by the way, an earlier draft of the sequel I just wrote. The editor read it, and told me that there seemed to be no point to that scene. I almost replied that the point of the scene was to revisit a character we liked from the first book. Then I thought about it.
Not a good enough reason. If the protagonist is going to go somewhere and do something, it has to serve the story, not the writer. It has to build the stakes, build the tension, remove whatever possibility there may once have been that the protagonist could just walk away.
And that last is a real concern, plotwise: Why can’t your protagonist just walk away? What happens if s/he doesn’t solve the murder, doesn’t get the Jewel of Togwogmagog, doesn’t win the fickle heart of Lord Postlethwaite-Praxleigh, Viscount of Twumley? At the very least, the world should explode.
So I rewrote the scenes leading up to the faulty scene, introducing a whole new element to drive my protagonist into that scene I wanted. He didn’t want to go, but he realized he had to, not because some unseen Author was making him, but because the things he valued and the things he was trying to accomplish made him feel it was the only sane choice, even though it scared the bejeezus out of him.
Or at least that’s what I tried for. I don’t know yet if it worked.
An easier solution would’ve been to just delete the scene, but I really wanted it.
Anyway, one more thing to think about, as you write or revise: Why is my protagonist going through all this? What are the stakes? Does s/he have the option of just walking out of the story and going home?
A callow youth and his/her stout companion have just emerged from the Swamp of the Dread Least Grebe, carrying the Onion of Othmar.
Or at least they thought they were carrying it. Oops.
Now at this point, the sensible thing to do would be to say “Screw the onion. Let’s go off to the Startled Duck and quaff ale.”
Show us why the characters can’t do that.
Try to limit yourself to 100 words.
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