Monday, July 18, 2011

The Story You Want vs. The Story You Need

Confession: I love writing funny scenes. The funnier, the better. And more often than not, they end up being my favorite scenes in my WIPs, as well as in published books. 

We all have our favorite scenes to read/write. Personally, I think this is super healthy. You either discover (and exploit) your strengths when writing, or buy books in the genre you enjoy the most. 

But not every scene you love is worth keeping.

You see, I believe there are two types of stories out there. They are:

1) The story you want

2) The story you need

#1 is easiest to spot. At the drafting stage, here's what this story will look like for me:

1) Witty banter 
(or an overload of sarcasm) (or both)

2) Lots of awkward internalization 
(Example: "I am a shy person. Parties make me anxious. Therefore, I stay home every Friday night and play Scrabble with my cat. It makes me very happy. Parties? Not so much. Because I am a shy person.")

3) Fast-paced action sequences 
(with lots of blood) (yes, I'm that girl...)

4) Zero backstory

Guess what? 99.9% of all that goes kaput during revisions. 

But they pave the way for Story #2, which should include three primordial things:

1) Your MC's goal

2) Your MC's conflict

3) How your MC resolves that conflict 
(or not)

To me, any scene is better when those three things are present. If your MC's goal is to defeat her nemesis, I'm pretty sure she won't do it with witty banter. Anything you find yourself loving to the point of obsession, cut it. You don't need something cute or witty or funny for the sake of something cute or witty or funny. You need something that makes sense for your story. 

And trust me, you'll end up loving the scene even more when it makes sense for the story.

Now tell me, blogging buddies: which scenes do you love writing/reading the most??


Unknown said...

I'm like you, I like the witty banter and the action scenes. But, it's funny, my readers actually want a story! Go figure. So, I have to combine both. Great post.

Hermana Tiffany Garner said...

I too get caught up with the awkward internalization. In my past edit, I've cut 10K just taking all of that out. It can help me understand my character better, but it really doesn't help the story, so I have to learn how to communicate the things I'm cutting in the dialogue and action. Thanks for the post!

Landra Graf said...

I tend to disagree with the idea of cutting the witty banter and awesome action. You just have to ensure that these portions essentially build with the 3 things that are must haves.
The writer I bow before is the one who can make the fun stuff into essential stuff.
Don't get me wrong, that fancy one-liner that you find absolutely charming may need to be cut. Or would adding another sentence, thought, or inserting it to a different scene add to the main conflict or goal.
P.S. I'm all about action and witty banter. I love the tension or relief found in some scandalous prose!

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Some chapters of my first draft are straight dialogue with an odd tag or emotion thrown in to keep score. LOL. So I'm with you on the need for MC's goal/conflict to be forcibly inserted and fluff extracted. Sigh. And this is why I don't relish revision.

Maybe I should look into screen writing. :)