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Thread: pivotal passages are difficult to write ...

  1. #1
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    pivotal passages are difficult to write ...

    ... b/c they're so important.

    So you try too hard to get them just ever so right and as a result they become even more difficult; if they were even difficult to begin with.

    They may be as obvious as other sections you've written in your novel and have only become difficult b/c you're making them so danged so by trying too hard b/c you feel you have to since so much is at stake.

    All this just occurred to me. Was wondering if it has to anyone else while struggling like the dickens?

    (One of the difficulties that arises is over-writing scenes: in an effort to (really!) make them have impact. And you needn't, since the action is more or less enough as is.)

    Hope this is a worthwhile question.

    Apologies in advance, if not.

  2. #2
    Let's see what's on special today.. Bufty's Avatar
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    Some sections may be harder to write than others but, no, I can't say I ever pondered upon the issue.

    Nothing wrong with the topic.
    Last edited by Bufty; 02-09-2013 at 04:41 PM. Reason: I'm not really a grump...
    Everything yields to treatment.

  3. #3
    It's too hot to play. SuperModerator alleycat's Avatar
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    I think "over-writing" can often be a problem, especially with opening scenes where a writer wants to make absolutely sure the reader understands the character(s), the setting, the character's inner world, and the whole situation--so they try to explain too much at one time (I find that particularly true of SF and fantasy writers with their "world and spacecraft" building).

    One possible idea; As an experiment, take whatever scene is troublesome, copy it to a temporary file, and pretend that you now have a word count limit of only two-thirds of the words you have now--you have to make each and every sentence as telling as possible and needed. There will be resistance at first and you won't see how you can make the scene work if you have to cut out so much, but after a while you will often begin to see how the writing is stronger ("Maybe I didn't really need all that internal dialogue where Tom is worrying about the weather now that I think about it"). Again, just an idea.



  4. #4
    Obsessive Plotting Disorder Parataxis's Avatar
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    I actually kind of speed through pivotal scenes. Because they're the scenes I've had in my head longest. And while the first draft of them is about the same mucky quality as my other first drafts, they take a lot less time to spill out.

    For first drafts just try to get the jist of the mood. Maybe some of the dialogue right. Because even pivotal scenes will get re-written. So just try to make them get across what you want. So you can keep going, and then you can go back and fix them later.
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  5. #5
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Parataxis View Post
    For first drafts just try to get the jist of the mood. Maybe some of the dialogue right. Because even pivotal scenes will get re-written. So just try to make them get across what you want. So you can keep going, and then you can go back and fix them later.
    ... so true. And yet even though I more or less "know" this I still feel like I have to do something particularly special, no matter if it's a first draft or not. Even just to block something out that packs a wallop.

    Thnx.

    Quote Originally Posted by alleycat View Post
    As an experiment, take whatever scene is troublesome, copy it to a temporary file, and pretend that you now have a word count limit of only two-thirds of the words you have now--you have to make each and every sentence as telling as possible and needed. There will be resistance at first and you won't see how you can make the scene work if you have to cut out so much, but after a while you will often begin to see how the writing is stronger ("Maybe I didn't really need all that internal dialogue where Tom is worrying about the weather now that I think about it"). Again, just an idea.
    ... and good one at that. Will give it a try. Can see how that might take some of the pressure off by having it separate. Then it's just one --unintimidating-- scene.


    Quote Originally Posted by Bufty View Post

    Nothing wrong with the topic.
    ... thnx pal :-)

  6. #6
    A woman said to write like a man. Plot Device's Avatar
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    I have this one pivotal scene which I built toward for many chapters prior. It was a "big reveal" moment meant to make the reader gasp, and it culminated in just one pararaph --a paragraph I crafted with the ut most care. I set each word down into that one crucial paragraph with all the delicacy of a jeweler setting each stone onto a diamond necklace.


    And then ...........





    And then I had to do a frigging rewrite!

    Gah!!


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  7. #7
    resident curmudgeon
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    I doubt I'm successful, but I think of every page and every scene as pivotal, and don't go up or down with what I'm writing. I'm afraid that if I don't try as hard as possible to write every scene as well as I possibly can, it will stand out as bad because of any good scene around it. Every scene is difficult to get right, not just just pivotal ones.

  8. #8
    writer, rider, reader...ex-pat! BethS's Avatar
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    Sometimes pivotal moments sneak up on me. I write them without realizing they're pivotal until afterwards. Obviously those are the easiest.

    I generally find that it works best if I treat any kind of "special" "important" "pivotal" moment as if it's just like any other moment in the story. Turning a magnifying lens on it rarely does anything but magnify the perceived difficulties.

    Naturally I learned this the hard way.

  9. #9
    practical experience, FTW chicgeek's Avatar
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    Yeah, I totally build up big scenes in my mind and it makes them more difficult to write when I get to them. But at the same time I almost feel like I'm gearing up; I know the emotional tone is important and that I want to knock it out of the park so I try to get into the right head space for it. In that way it can be kind of exhilarating and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I've finally done it.

    I'm in my 3rd draft, though. It's a bit easier for me to focus on a scene's finer points when I've already written it a couple times and more or less know how everything is going to go down. The last draft was more of a long form scene plan -- each scene was given equal weight in my mind as I tried to piece together its nuts and bolts. That actually helped to take the pressure off on this go around.
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  10. #10
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by chicgeek View Post
    Yeah, I totally build up big scenes in my mind and it makes them more difficult to write when I get to them. But at the same time I almost feel like I'm gearing up; I know the emotional tone is important and that I want to knock it out of the park so I try to get into the right head space for it. In that way it can be kind of exhilarating and I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I've finally done it.
    ... good to know I'm not alone in this. With me, my pivotal scenes are often inserted in later drafts. I realize where something major should occur when reading the ms over. Then, all of a sudden, the pressure is on!

    G'luck with your own. Take as long as you need. No rush :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by BethS View Post

    Naturally I learned this the hard way.
    ... I keep waiting for it to sink in to the point where I learn the lesson.
    But that never seems to happen even though I realize the error.
    Well, actually I am learning. Very gradually.
    Instead of spending hours laboring away at something I shouldn't be,
    I labor away for a few minutes less each time. So maybe eventually --

    :-)

    Quote Originally Posted by Plot Device View Post
    I set each word down into that one crucial paragraph with all the delicacy of a jeweler setting each stone onto a diamond necklace.


    And then ...........





    And then I had to do a frigging rewrite!

    Gah!!


    ... that about sums it up


    Thnx everyone. Helpful feedback. Just made it thru a difficult scene. And just as suspected, I was trying to give it too much impact. I streamlined the scene, incorporated some of the new stuff, and voila. Done deal. I do sorta wish things had worked out as "grandly" as I'd planned. But probably just as well they didn't.

  11. #11
    figuring it all out
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    I find that pivotal scenes (for me at least) are more about emotion than about thought. Like a few others have mentioned, pivotal scenes are typically already swimming around in my head long before I write them, and so when it's time to put them on paper, I need to be patient and wait until I'm in the right mood to let those emotions speak freely.

  12. #12
    In search of my marbles ElaineA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken View Post
    Thnx everyone. Helpful feedback. Just made it thru a difficult scene. And just as suspected, I was trying to give it too much impact. I streamlined the scene, incorporated some of the new stuff, and voila. Done deal. I do sorta wish things had worked out as "grandly" as I'd planned. But probably just as well they didn't.
    Funny how sometimes the act of writing down that you're having difficulty and posting it in "public" breaks the dam. Happy for you that you've powered through it.

  13. #13
    The grad students did it NeuroFizz's Avatar
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    Pivotal scenes depend so much on what has been previously established, I feel like they don't require anything more than all of the preceding scenes, as long as the lead-up is well done. In fact, I find the most satisfying pivotal scenes are the ones where I slap myself on the forehead and say, "I should have seen that coming." This reaction certainly takes the pressure off of the pivotal scene and places it evenly on the whole story through that scene. If a twist or revelation is properly set up, that pivotal scene should write itself, without the need to be especially dramatic or mind-probing for the reader.

    Also, over-writing usually occurs when the writer doesn't trust the intellect of the readers. I think it is much better if we don't underestimate the intelligence of those readers, but rather show some trust in them.
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  14. #14
    practical experience, FTW Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeuroFizz View Post
    Also, over-writing usually occurs when the writer doesn't trust the intellect of the readers. I think it is much better if we don't underestimate the intelligence of those readers, but rather show some trust in them.
    ... major factor for me. It's so hard to predict how much readers will get at first. I always tend to supply too much. But then when I edit it I realize the extra wasn't necessary and actually subtracted from the impact by bogging the scene down.

    Quote Originally Posted by ElaineA View Post
    Funny how sometimes the act of writing down that you're having difficulty and posting it in "public" breaks the dam. Happy for you that you've powered through it.
    You're definitely right about that.
    Maybe it's from putting oneself on the spot?
    Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeCheck View Post
    I find that pivotal scenes (for me at least) are more about emotion than about thought.
    For me they're more of a byproduct. If I intentionally tried to get the right emotion expressed I'd most likely fail. If just focus on the action, instead, and the character then the emotions comes about by themselves, if that makes any sense. (I'm not the best with that stuff, so a convoluted approach may be all I can manage.)

    Thanks everyone!

  15. #15
    dragon seeker CatchingADragon's Avatar
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    I definitely over-write them. My problem is that while I'm writing, I have a tough time seeing how a particular scene relates to the overall story in terms of pacing until the editing phase. A bit like painting with my eyes too close to the canvas, so I put in too much detail. But I think it's easier to over-write and cut down later.

  16. #16
    Seashell Seller Layla Nahar's Avatar
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    Every passage is hard for me to write...
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  17. #17
    practical experience, FTW rwm4768's Avatar
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    I love writing pivotal scenes. They're the ones that keep me excited through the parts that aren't quite as exciting. Sometimes, it can be difficult, but if I just write, it usually comes out okay. Don't overthink the scenes. Just write them in a way that feels natural.

  18. #18
    figuring it all out Bec de Corbin's Avatar
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    Pivotal scenes are certainly more exciting to write, but I for one tend to get melodramatic.

    My sentences become shorter as things get more tense.

    I start a new paragraph.

    Every time.

    Just. Like. This.

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