Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Too Much Tea - Vary Your Scenes

I was reading this book review on Kat Loves Books where the protagonist spent most of her time drinking tea. It seems like every other action she took was drinking tea. (Once or twice she had wine instead.)

It made me go back and look at my manuscript and wonder if my characters are cooking and eating too much. In Chapter One my protagonist is cooking dinner, and there are a LOT of other scenes where the characters make or eat food. Now I happen to adore cooking, and I'm a Cancer (we tend to have a thing about food) so that might have something to do with it.

I also have places where my characters feed chickens,  a car chase, several walks in the woods (one of which lasts for three days),  another chase scene, a few scenes at the high school and making a Show-and-Tell project (it's a YA) several rituals cast (they're witches), doing the laundry, a manicure and other things. However my characters do spend a lot of time hanging out in the kitchen, making food and trying to figure out what to do next.

In my defense, my characters are in hiding, and there's not a lot for them to do EXCEPT hide and try to figure out what to do. Going outdoors invariably gets them into trouble. I've attempted to give them non-food activities, and I hope I've balanced it well.


Look over your story and make a note of the major activity your characters are involved in. Don't focus on what's happening between the characters or with the plot, just list the background activity they're doing while the scene is happening.

For instance your list might read:

Reading the newspaper and drinking tea
Riding on the bus
Going to a restaurant
Taking a bath
Playing poker
Going to a bar
Breaking into a house
Eating breakfast

If there's no major plot/character action, then for the purpose of this exercise it doesn't count. If you summarize that your character drives home from work, takes a shower, goes out to dinner and then goes to a bar, but the only action that happens is when your character is at the bar, then the drive, the shower and the dinner don't count on your list.

Look for places where you're repeating the same background action and see if you can find a way to vary it.

What if your character leads a rather mundane and repetitive life? Let's say our character, Edna is a middle aged housewife and keeping her house clean is her main goal in life. No doubt you'll have many scenes where she is cleaning or dusting or doing the laundry.

But why not also have her:

Go shopping.
Deal with the door-to-door salesman.
Take a walk down the street and notice the general condition and cleanliness of her neighbor's houses.
Go to church (assuming she's religious).
Get a flat tire.
Weed the garden (that might be part of house cleaning, but it does get her outside).
Attend a bake sale.

For other ideas on changing up the background action, check out Go Somewhere Strange

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