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Sometimes, I find myself writing a scene that does everything I think it should do: reveal details about the protagonist, drive the plot forward, show other elements related to the story, etc. There's only one problem: I find the scene "boring" (even if the plot itself isn't). In other words, I don't feel excited writing it nor reading it.

Is it normal for a writer to encounter those types of scenes? Should I just remove them?

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3 Answers 3

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I'm mostly a non-fiction writer, just trying to write my first novel now, so I don't claim to be speaking from the voice of deep experience. But that said ...

Yes, absolutely. I've gone through this a number of times on my current project. I write a scene, and then when I look back at it the next day, I realize it's boring.

As SF says, consider moving the essential elements of the scene somewhere else. Like -- and I don't want to get into a long discussion of my own project, but let me just say that I wrote a scene whose point was to reveal that the hero's motive in helping the other characters was purely selfish. I considered it a crucial revelation in the development of his character. But when I was done writing it, I realized that there was this long involved narrative of him arriving at the place where he has this conversation, explaining how another chararacter came to meet him at that place, and then getting them from there to where they needed to be for the next scene. I realized I had several pages of meandering for about two sentences of relevant material. So I sat back and re-thought the whole scene. Then I created a new scene at the same location where the main action was going on so I could eliminate all the "how'd they get there" discussion, put the exchange with him into that scene, and then built it into a larger discussion that included the motivations of two lesser characters. I ended up getting more material into one scene while making it all flow more naturally.

I just had another case where a scene just seemed way too long for the amount of interesting stuff that actually happened. It's just characters talking about their backgrounds on and on. So I'm thinking of breaking that into two scenes. Wrap up the first more quickly, so it doesn't drag on and get boring. Then take the second part and put some action in front of it, so there's something actually happening, and then after the "action sequence", the character can give some explanation.

I don't know how old you are, but I find that when personal computers came along and I switched from typewriters to word processing software, it completely changed the way I write. When you write on the computer, if you're working on page 40 and you realize that something on page 20 isn't effective, you can go back and change it and it's no big deal. You don't have to re-type the intervening 20 pages. Or if you're on page 20 and you're stuck about how something should go, you can just leave yourself a note to get back to this and push on. Take advantage of this. Be ruthless with your text. If something isn't effective, fix it. If a scene adds nothing to the story, throw it out.

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+1 just for "be ruthless." I'd give this +2 if I could. –  Lauren Ipsum Jan 14 '13 at 16:44

Yes, it's normal to find such scenes. And removing these scenes is perfectly normal too, although not always necessary nor the correct course of action.

Before anything, think what essential elements were added by that scene.

Think if other scenes could benefit from moving these elements there. If you find that the story can only benefit from reaping all the good pieces of the scene and using them to enrich the rest, kill it off without regrets.

If most essential elements can be moved out but there are a few that won't fit elsewhere, think of making a small, skeletal scene to put them in. Take the juiciest page out of the current one and condense them in there, or write one that summarizes the events or such. A kind of lifeboat for whatever would be lost. Reduce the whole scene to atomic dimensions, so there's no time for it to get boring.

If you find you can't really trim the scene and remove it without considerable sacrifices, it's time to think how to repair it. I asked a question about that and got a fairly fine answer how to do it. Create a story arc, a short story, something captivating and thrilling and simply overlay it on the boring part, make it a background for the new events. You still get to convey what was needed but the audience won't be bored.

...last but not least, you may keep the plot and the scene pretty much as-is. Rescue it by giving it proper framing. Make the neighboring scenes so rapid, so active and crazy, that the moment of respite becomes welcome, not boring but relaxing.

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I'm a relatively new to fiction, but I too have experienced the pain of writing and then reading over a dreadfully boring hunk of prose. Here are ways I handle the problem.

  • I wait a day. Then I cut like a butcher. I make sure key elements are incorporated nearby.
  • Sometimes a judicious adjectival phrase can carry the weight of a 4-5 sentence description!
  • I save my trimmings in a Word file especially dedicated to that story; sometimes I'll just paste cuttings at the bottom of a page, but this can get messy.

I sense that with more experience, with more hours spent tapping away at my stories, I'll be able to recognize the thought-patterns that drive me down these tedious paths. Once I learn to detect a blowsy patch ahead, I'll learn how to avoid it.

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