Do you ever re-watch particular scenes of movies or re-read certain parts of a book because you loved that moment so much? You probably know what I mean. You can skip through most of a story for that one moment when you really felt something, be it surprise, elation, fear—whatever. But the story creator did it so well, sometimes you have to revisit that moment, to feel it again.
This brings me to today’s quote by Robert Frost:
No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.
We know what’s coming in our stories, but we can still write it in a way that surprises us, or makes us cry, or gives us that elation. I always think of Back to the Future. I know Marty is going to make it in time for the lightning. I know Doc Brown will plug in that cable in time. And yet I’m still on the edge of my seat even though I’ve seen this movie a bajillion times.
That’s what we should strive for in our writing. Sure, maybe not every scene will have you in the height of emotion—but every scene should at least be building for that moment.
Go back to your work in progress. Are there scenes in there you love? Why do you love them? What about scenes you find boring? Odds are if you think they’re boring, your audience will too. Tension can help. But most important is to make every scene matter. Every scene should either be eliciting a strong emotional connection or working toward building that connection.
Even in the scenes you love, you may have to do some hard editing. We have to be both willing to kill our darlings and create them at the same time.
That’s why I’m always pushing for people to read Story and Writing the Breakout Novel, because they’re two books I fully believe can help you take blah scenes to fabulous. You want your readers unable to put your book down, don’t you? You want them to glance at the clock, notice it’s 1AM and promise they’ll quit after one more chapter.
If you’re not crying, they’re not crying. If you’re not surprised, they’re not surprised. Make them cry. Surprise them. Go through the hard edits so it happens.
Do you agree with Mr. Frost? Have you written difficult scenes that got you to tears (or nearly)? Do you read certain parts of your books again and again? Why? What would you add to Mr. Frost’s advice? Let us know in the comments!