One thing I’ve started doing when I know I have an important scene on my hands and I’m nervous about how it’s going to come across is, I write down five sensory details I want to include within the scene before I actually start it. I try to pick at least three things that aren’t the “obvious thing” to point out – the obvious stuff will generally fall into place by itself, anyway. Sometimes I don’t even end up putting one of my details in the text, but it’s implied by other details or dialogue or character reactions.
Why does this help me write difficult scenes? I think there are a number of reasons it bolsters my confidence in what I’m about to set down in type. (1) It helps me visualize/feel the setting and how it will affect the action and the characters involved. (2) It helps me stay consistent on my details…like not saying it’s a sweltering day and then dressing a character in winter clothes. (3) I know I won’t have to stop to think up details if the scene is coming out flat. (4) It gives me a focus for thinking through the scene a little ahead of time, solidifying the action and interactions in my head before I start slinging words around. (5) It puts me there. I’m not at my desk or my laptop anymore; I’m in the story world.
This whole thing originally started with some of Donald Maass’ exercises in The Fire in Fiction, but I’m using it in a different context than he originally suggests in the book, and it’s helping me keep plugging away at my wordsmithing.
I cheated. This is more a writing exercise post than a regular “writing and rewriting Monday” post.