Another Moment with Writer’s Digest

(Give the Lady a Ride is now on Kindle and Nook!)

Get “into each scene as late as possible, and out of it as early as possible” is David Morrell’s paraphrase of advice from screenwriter William Goldman (Adventures in the Screen Trade).

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.

About Linda W. Yezak

Author/Freelance Editor/Speaker (writing and editing topics).
This entry was posted in Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Another Moment with Writer’s Digest

  1. Good advice. When I first read “get into your scene as LATE as possible,” I wondered “what?” thinking that meant too much yackety-yacking before getting to the important stuff. But he means late as in time; not words. That makes sense.


    • Linda Yezak says:

      Yeah, he means getting into it where the action begins instead of wasting time (and the readers’ patience) setting it up. As many car scenes as I have in The Cat Lady’s Secret, that advice hit me right on the nose!


  2. Morrell’s brilliant. I have his book on writing on my wishlist. I’m sure it’s just chock full of goodies.


  3. Lisa Grace says:

    I attended a writers conference called Writers in Paradise, hosted by the author’s Dennis Lehayne (Shutter Island; Gone, Baby, Gone; and Mystic River, etc…) and Sterling Watson (Sweet Dreams Baby).

    Starting in a car, or describing the weather or landscape, waking out of sleep or a coma, describing what the character wears or what they look like, hair blowing in the wind, are called “beginner mistakes”, and automatically put you on the slush pile.
    Reason being is most of they authors worked as first readers while they were getting their MFA’s and most books from those trying to get out of the slush pile, start their books that way.

    You may need to write yourself into your story, but that is not where your story “starts”.


    • Linda Yezak says:

      So right, Lisa. It’s never wise to start a book/chapter/scene with a cliche.

      That sounds like it was a terrific conference. I bet you enjoyed it!


  4. Lisa Grace says:

    I spelled Dennis’ name wrong, I hope he forgives me! Lehane. Dennis Lehane.


  5. Great tips, from both your blog and the comments. As always I learn so much whenever I come in. Thanks again, Linda for sharing your knowledge with us. It is always appreciated.


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