clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Monday, January 21, 2013


It's cold here. The door knob hurts your hand when you grab it.

I thought today about the structure of a scene. In rough draft form, I'm pretty general about staging a scene. I need it to advance a plot point so I put it together with three or four derivative points and sometimes one or two of those become the keys to future scenes themselves. I like it when I have a character say something offhand and it becomes an important role in the story - a role I did not foresee.

For example, I might have a character confronted with a choice that needs to be made right now with no meaningful information. Maybe he'll reference odds on a certain proposition bet in a crap game. Right then we know something about the fellow and his world view. Maybe he had a betting problem in the past. Maybe he has one now. Maybe he's the product of a misspent youth. Maybe he liked to go to Vegas with his ex-wife.

When he needs to meet a tough somewhere later in the story and he thinks he needs a public place, he might suggest a table in an upstate Indian casino . Surveillance, relative anonymity, and a chance to turn the tables on the tough by slipping a pit boss a note saying he saw the fellow in the men's room and the thug has a revolver in his belt.

I like the unexpected things in crafting a scene that give way to something later. I might need to grab onto to it to complete a story.

I don't know exactly where they come from; but, they have proved to be essential to the story re-write when they emerged just as a random insertion in the rough draft.

I'm curious, through the process of multiple drafts does anyone else have this tendency to bring in bits that start as insignificant references and turn into meaningful plot elements ?  I'm doing it a great deal more in the last month or so than I have in the preceding years. I don't know if that is meaningful or not.


Hart Johnson said...

I love when that elegance can come though, too. I'm not sure where in the subconscious it comes from, but it is far better to have them appear organically than to install them in rewrites. They just feel more natural. That said, I DO sometimes install them in rewrites--they are especially helpful if the plot turns an unexpected corner--makes it seem less random.

jack welling said...

Elegance - what a great phrase for it. Awesome.

Thanks Hart !