Inspiration Vs Perspiration
Whatever. Many of you know the story of why I call this blog “The WriteRunner”. (Hint: It’s not anything to do with Khaled Hosseini’s similar sounding novel.) I do my best writing while running (or working out). For some reason, the rhythm of the workout allows my mind to tune out and concentrate on the problems. There’s nothing to interrupt me, no cell phone, no email, nothing. It’s how I turn perspiration into inspiration.
When it comes to writing, the above formula isn’t quite valid. There really isn’t any “work” involved in writing. (Copy editing maybe). Every sentence has to be inspired. There should not be a single “throwaway” word in your entire piece. No filler like, “then he went to the store, grabbed some chow, and then went to bed.” No! That’s uninspired. That’s when writing becomes work. The real work of writing is finding time to write. And then, of course, there’s the whole publication process, but we’ll ignore that for now.
I bring this up because yesterday I started debating whether to write or cut a planned scene. I couldn’t bring myself to write it. I’ve been telling myself lately, “if I don’t feel the scene, then the readers won’t either. If I’m not head-over-heels in love with a scene, then it’s wrong.” I even cut the scene out of my spreadsheet, but then I undid the delete. Something told me I needed the scene, but the outline I had for it sucked. Just two characters arguing. Boring.
The thing is, scenes need to matter. Arguments don’t cut it. Yes, the scene introduces a character. Yes, it shows a specific conflict and certain backstories that will be threaded throughout the book. Yes, there’s tension and setting and a bunch of stuff that I’ve mentioned in my Scene Structure series. But I didn’t want to write it. It had no Mojo.
So of course, I’m thinking about it this morning during my swim workout. (BTW, you know you’re a swimmer when you can think of anything but not drowning and maintain that thought over several laps). I looked at the scene from different angles, different points of view. Then I thought of another scene with the main POV character, where she’s motivated to hurt another character for no reason. Why? Dum dum DUM! Put her motivation into this scene! Inspiration during perspiration! Give her a goal, and to achieve that goal, she must hurt this other character. Now my characters are motivated. Done and done! This scene matters. Wheels have been set in motion. The world has changed, and nothing is the same as it was before.
Scenes are like one-way doors. (Think of an airplane hatch. Once it closes, you’re along for the ride, and you will not land back at the same airport). Every single scene in your novel must move your plot and characters to a new place, a new destination, from which they cannot escape without great effort. Words must be said that cannot be unsaid. Feelings must be hurt or otherwise altered. Actions have permanent consequences. The bullet cannot be put back in the gun.
Okay, enough rambling for today. How do you ensure that every scene changes the world? And can you turn your perspiration into inspiration?