Do You Really Need That Scene?

Photo credit: bhayva999 on Flickr
A critique I've been finding myself make more often is questioning whether a scene is really vital to the plot—and I've been somewhat surprised with how often the answer is...well, questionable.

Unlike real life, everything that happens in the book must have a purpose—from your protagonist's daydream, to that witty banter, to that flashback or cute, fluffy scene. Every little thing must advance the plot or characters in some way, and sometimes, it can be hard to recognize whether or not that scene you love is actually doing something important, or whether its there just because you like it.

Really analyzing your scenes is an important part of large-scale revisions. It can be hard to admit that a scene might not be holding its weight, but once you reach that point, there are two things you can do: cut it or fix it.

Cutting a scene that isn't holding its own is self-explanatory, really—if it doesn't serve a purpose, then it doesn't need to be there. But in some cases, a scene may still have potential, in which case it can be reworked to serve some kind of purpose. Maybe you add a section where your characters talk about something important, or reveal something about themselves; maybe they stumble onto something that affects the plot. Whatever it is, what's important is that you make sure your revisions allow the scene to either further the plot or character—or both.

Analyzing whether or not a scene is really necessary can be hard when it's your own work—another reason why critique partners are so helpful. But by really putting each of your scenes under a microscope, you can discover some important ways to further your plot and character, ultimately strengthening your book as a whole.

Have you ever cut or reworked a scene that wasn't serving a purpose?

Twitter-sized bite:
Do you really need that scene? @Ava_Jae talks the importance of making sure every scene has a purpose. (Click to tweet)

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