Have you ever been editing a scene that you’ve written and just get the feeling that something vital is missing? You’ve followed all the beats, made sure your dialogue is solid, fleshed out all of the characters, and yet, something isn’t quite right. I’ve come across this feeling countless times. Sometimes, the only solution in the end is to hand the scene over and ask someone else for their thoughts. (Never be afraid to ask for help! Our eyes can only catch so much.)
But there are two easy solutions that seem to work for me about 8 out of 10 times this happens. They might seem a little random, but I’m telling you, they work! After doing some research, I gathered that these same two “cheats” have helped other writers, too. So, what are these two magical solutions that can fix your scenes with no problem? Let’s find out!
1. Changing the Weather
It sounds ridiculous, but don’t stop reading yet. Weather is something that a lot of writers need to be more aware of. It enhances the setting and descriptions and just brings some nice variation into a story or scene. This can be a difficult thing to grasp because we obviously aren’t in the habit of controlling the weather – so making it rain or shine at will doesn’t come naturally!
But when it comes to storytelling, weather is actually a great tool you can use to mirror emotions, create conflict, and even get the gears going for the whole story. It might be a cliche to have it rain during sad scenes, but hey, the reason why it’s used so much is that it works! It just drives that melancholy emotion home in a visual, atmospheric way.
Weather changes in a scene or story don’t even have to be major. Sometimes we forget that there’s more to weather than just “rainy” or “sunny.” If you’re having trouble thinking of nuances in the weather, grab a journal and take some notes on what’s going on outside for a week. It may be hot every day, but perhaps it’s awfully muggy one day and breezy the next with lots of clouds. These are the kinds of subtle differences that will make your story just a bit more realistic.
So if your scene is missing something, try adding a thunderstorm to a simple rainy day. If it’s sunny, add some vicious wind so that someone’s hat blows off or the characters have to shout to be heard. Or, change the weather altogether. Turn a clear blue sky into a hurricane!
A simple change like this can really make all the difference. I distinctly remember one short story I wrote where a young woman living in modern times gets transported to another place and abruptly gets sent back at the end. Something about the scenes with her in her apartment – at the very beginning and end of the story – just wasn’t quite gelling with the rest. So what did I do? Made it rainy outside. The sound of rain in the story became synonymous with “reality,” or the normal world. Apart from this function, it also just added some nice descriptions and set the mood for the story.
But maybe weather isn’t your problem. In that case, we’ll move to my number two fix that’s a bit more complex.
2. A Contrary Character
This change is a little more involved, as you’ll have to either change a character entirely or tweak their disposition (realistically) for a scene. But don’t get discouraged or turn away yet. This fix comes in when your scene feels flat and you’re missing some escalating conflict. Here’s what you want to look for: is anyone at odds with your character in the scene or story?
Let me put it this way. Sometimes, all of my characters are too nice. In the fantasy short story I’m currently editing (which you can sign up to be a beta reader for!), the main character is apathetic and snarky. The other three central characters, though, are all pretty kind, albeit in different ways. While reading through the short story over and over, I knew something was missing. Surprise: it was a contrary character!
Although there is one other character my MC bickers with, he’s not in most of the core scenes. I realised that I needed to make a shift in one of the characters, make him just a little younger, more petulant, and boom! A whole layer got added to the story and that “meh” feeling was fixed.
This “cheat” has saved many of my stories. Another way to do this is to add a situation in a scene that divides two characters; how you do it is up to you. But overall, spicing up the scene or story with even just this small layer of conflict works wonders.
Bookmark this post for later. Next time you’re struggling to pinpoint a problem in a story or scene, try these cheats! And if you need more intensive help, contact me! I offer detailed feedback on books or short stories starting at just $10.
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