I’ve been having fits editing a scene for the last few days. I was boring myself with the scene and couldn’t bring myself to finish it.
The aspects that were giving me trouble:
1. It’s set in an office which is where the last two scenes took place.
Fix: For the longest time, I couldn’t see a way around this because the characters are lawyers preparing for a trial and a lot of the action will be taking place in the office. One alternative is to have the interview take place in the second chair’s office, where at least the decorations are different.
Another and probably better alternative and one that Elizabeth George often uses: to have the interview take place at the witness/suspect’s place of work. The son in my story is a conceptual artist, so the interview could take place in his studio. This would provide some different set pieces, give the characters something to talk about other than the case, and have more conflict because one or both female attorneys won’t like it or will disagree with each other about their reactions to the artwork.
2. It was a question and answer between my main character, an assistant district attorney, and the defendant’s son, mainly gathering information.
Here’s how it started off:
Karen dela Rose’s son was so thin and tall, his clothes looked like they were draped over a hanger. With his pale coloring and reddened eyes, he resembled a rodent.
“I’m sorry for your loss.” In his case, it was a double loss. His father dead, his mother imprisoned for his murder.
He nodded and folded himself into a chair.
“You chose not to have an attorney present.” The heat blazed behind the blinds in my office, like it was battering to get in.
He quirked his mouth in a weak smile. “I don’t need an attorney. I have nothing to hide.”
I nodded. “I asked you here to get some background information on your family.” I was surprised he had come. Paulson should have interviewed him from the get-go, but was too eager to start clearing cases now that he was back. “What kind of relationship did your parents have with each other?”
“They were married for a long time.”
“What kind of marriage was it?”
“It had its ups and downs, but they were devoted to each other.”
Strange choice of words, especially for a man about my own age.
I’ve brought in the main character’s second chair who is a bit erratic, but she should add some life to the scene. There is also some underlying conflict between these two women, and as every writing advice book and blog post recommends, conflict is key! They also have conflict about how to handle the interview, meaning that their questioning will at times be at cross-purposes.
Tips that you can apply to your own work:
1. Bring in another person in a dyadic scene to introduce conflict.
2. Change the setting; consider a work setting to add interest.
3. Use oblique dialogue – people don’t answer questions and answer other questions instead.
I’ve sketched the rough draft with these new elements. Now I just have to write it all up.
Will any of this work for you? What do you do to revitalize boring scenes?
Category: scenes, Uncategorized | Tags: scene construction
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