Taking your scenes to the extreme

This isn't the worst thing that's happened to me, but it's not the best...
This isn't the worst thing that's happened to me, but it's not the best...

I received a couple of requests from pitch sessions at the RWA National Conference, so I hurried home and did a read through of my material, a paranormal romance manuscript that I was very happy with.  I expected to clear up any typos or missing words and submit.  What I found were three scenes which were only doing half of what they should.

At the most basic level, a scene should move the plot along.  As I’m a pantser, I use the second draft to ensure each scene is accomplishing that task.  But there’s a deeper question to ask when reviewing your scenes.  Did I take this scene as far as I could?

Whether a scene advances the internal plot or the external plot, a genre writer needs to take her scenes to the extreme.  If there’s a physical fight, and the hero loses, the consequences have to be the highest possible within the context of your plot and its place in the manuscript .  If it’s a contemporary romance, and near the beginning, he might have his eye swell shut.  At the end, he might wind up in the hospital.  If we’re talking vampires,  a fight in the beginning might make him desperate to feed, at the end he might be taken to the very edge of existence.

As I was reading my manuscript, I realized that I had let my main characters off far too easily.  I had trapped them in an area being flooded with poison gas, but the hero immediately saw a way out and took it.  I went back and had them try several other things and had him find the solution only after the gas had begun to affect them.

Now how about you?  How have you revved up your scenes?

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