What if a scne isn’t working for you. You know the conflict, the characters, the goal the motivation. But for some reason it just isn’t working. Turn it around perhaps rom another characters pov or have the characters striving for the opposite thing or have the opposite reaction
For instance in One Door Away rom Heaven, byDeanKoontz
A young handicapped girl has revealed to her trailer park neighbors that she’s the victim of abuse at the hands of her drug-soaked mother and her possibly-murderous stepfather. In a long scene, Leilani has proved to be funny, smart, endearing, and courageous. As her neighbors, an aunt and niece with some heavy baggage of their own, gradually come to believe her horrifying tales, the reader joins them in helpless rage against the system that can’t seem to save Leilani. Eventually they have no choice but to let her go home next door, before her stepfather comes home and discovers that she’s been making friends with the neighbors.
Leilani limps across the yard between their trailers in the dusk while the two women stand in their doorway and watch her. Now first instinct would be to write this scene from the grownups POV watching her approach what they believe to be a house of doom.
But Koontz shows his genius by writing this from Leilani’s POV, giving her thoughts as she regrets burdening her new friends with her problems, and trying to cheer them up. The scene is even more poignant as we “see” her efforts to appear cheerful and carefree and looking back and seeing that she hasn’t fooled the women a bit.
By doing this Koontz hikes up the reader’s empathy for Leilani. We already know the women are frantic about her safety. That’s a natural reaction, so it wouldn’t really further the plot to describe it. But by seeing the scene from the endangered child’s viewpoint the stakes are raised. We are shown Leilani’s bravery and the scope of her stepfather’s evil because she’s so afraid for her new friends. The fact that she is able to still be such a cheerful and brave heroine makes us care all the more about what is going to happen to her.
So if you have a scene that isn’t working for you, but you believe it must be in the story, turn it around.
Your heroine is driving down the road and suddenly struck by another car. She’s going to be shaken, Think about how some people apologize all over the place, regardless of fault, others get angry, regardless of fault. Some are calm, some excited. And so on. Responses by other characters — Are others fearful or nervous around him? (Fearful in physical sense, like with a gunfighter, maybe, or fearful for their job, because he is the al powerful boss?). Are people at ease around him? Do they tiptoe. Do they ask favors, beg indulgances, demand attention.
An exercise I use for this is to ask the students to recount the messages the character has received on his/her answering machine – with messages from such people as mother, brother/sister, boss or coworker, old girl/boy friend.