November 6, 2013

Writing Scenes into the Novel

Dear M,

Sometimes stories come to us in bits and pieces, and not in a continuous flow. I have experienced it in the case of short stories as well as novels. Perhaps because we are too involved in the story or obsessed with it, everything we come across in life reminds us of our story. We are constantly processing how to incorporate a new development in life into our fictional world.

I write these scenes down as soon as I get some clarity on them. Sometimes it takes days for the scene to polish itself. I keep changing the text, either in my mind or in paper. (It is so easy to lose the phrases from the mind than from paper!) Most often, it's the dialogs that come to me. The better we know our characters the sharper their dialogs become - because we know how they are going to react. The person who meets his ex-lover who has ditched him for a better man, for instance. We know he isn't going to explode or anything. He's a sad, pathetic little being anyway. The initial scene had too many dialogs. Then I snipped and scraped and scratched and struck out many lines, and it became concise and precise, just enough to reveal who he was, who she was, how things had happened, why they happened as they did.

I like writing scenes like that, out of the blue. I haven't yet written what comes before that, I haven't ventured into what's next. But this scene, I take my time to write it in. I wrote one complete novel that way. I knew its ending scene, then a few scenes before that, then a few at the start, etc. I did not pause to think, I kept writing these scenes into their respective chapters as per my original notes so that the order was maintained. Finally when all the dots were connected, I read them from start to make sure that the continuity was not lost. Of course there were jerks and abrupt transitions where these scenes were stitched in. The next step was to iron them out.

You don't have to believe everything I say. Every author (at least the ones I have seen so far) likes what they write, every author believes their own method is the best, every author praises his own style, even if his/her writing is nowhere near good.


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