Do you ever get the feeling that a scene you’re writing, just isn’t going to work? That no one would ever act this way? That no one would ever believe this outcome?
Do you ever leave the questionable scene in any way because you need this event to happen for plot reasons? Do you jump through mental hoops to convince yourself, well, maybe this is believable?
Maybe no one will notice.
Let’s consider a hypothetical scene:
A man goes into a forest. For plot reasons, the man needs to die in the scene. The writer takes an easy way out and makes a tree fall on our young man, crushing him to death.
I know I’m not giving you much detail, but I suspect you are finding this a bit far-fetched already. What are the chances that, of all the trees in a forest, the tree right in front of our poor guy would be the exact tree that falls, precisely when the man walks by? And that he wouldn’t hear it and get out of the way? It’s a bit convenient. And incredibly unlikely.
It isn’t as if our character walked onto a logging site where someone was actively cutting down trees. There wasn’t a hurricane, tornado, or earthquake tearing through this forest. It wasn’t even windy. The tree just fell on him. Boom. Our guy is dead.
We can try to convince ourselves the scene is logical. Maybe we go back into the manuscript and lay down some foreshadowing about another tree that fell. We could note in an earlier chapter that a tree in that same forest looked unstable. But none of these poorly disguised breadcrumbs can mask the fact that this scenario just wouldn’t happen.
You are probably thinking that this is a ridiculous example. Who would write such a scene? Who would think they could get away with something so obviously implausible.
Ummmm, it was me.
I wrote a scene in a draft of my book where a man runs into a forest and a tree falls on him. (I’m turning red with shame as I write this.)
Every time someone read the manuscript, I held my breath, waiting for them to tell me the scene was terrible. I did all sorts of mental gymnastics convincing myself that under certain circumstances this might happen. Right? I needed him to die and that conveniently falling tree got the job done.
No one said anything.
All the while, my stomach was twisting in knots because I knew it wasn’t working. But I refused to listen to my gut. [Read more…]