In a short article called “Pace” in the February 2011 issue of Writer’s Digest, Morrell points an accusing finger at me and says, “There’s no need to begin scenes by laboriously explaining how characters arrived there…”
So, okay, ‘fess up: How many of you are as guilty as I at driving from one scene to the next with her hair blowing in the wind, his hand gripping the wheel, the two of them reaching for the radio knobs at the same time?
C’mon–‘fess up. I know I’m not alone in this!
Granted, occasionally it’s important to know that the character opened the door, locked the gate, or settled into an Astin Martin, like, for instance, when that door isn’t supposed to be closed, or the gate–which he locked–swings open and lets the cattle out, or the Astin Martin defines the ritzy egomaniac in the driver’s seat. Sometimes the walk into the room or pasture slows the pace and gives the reader a break. Sometimes the drive provides the moments of reflection and internal dialogue necessary in many genres.
But, the “hook” doesn’t belong only in the opening chapter. Every chapter–every scene–needs to hook the reader from the beginning and delay that bookmark placement at the end. That’s the definition of “page-turner”; that’s how page-turners are created.
So, check your car scenes–and every other “filler” scene you have–and determine whether they need a double shot of espresso to kick them up or a glass of warm milk to put them to bed. Morrell says he goes through every scene during his edit and experiments with them by cutting the first and last paragraphs. Not a bad idea. Try it and see what happens.