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Tips-y Tuesday: Cracking Open Scenes

Last week on Tips-y Tuesday we looked at how illogic can make your writing feel more real and exciting than something perfectly logical. This week we’ll look at another way to make your writing come alive: cracking open scenes.

As a writer, one of my greatest weaknesses is writing too generically. I forget that the reader isn’t inside my brain and can’t see everything I’m seeing. So what I like to do when I go back and edit is making sure I’ve “cracked open” any generic scenes.

What I mean by that is taking a bland scene then opening it up to reveal hidden, juicy details. Here’s an example of a scene in desperate need of some cracking:

“He woke up and made breakfast, then got ready for work. He kissed his wife on the way out the door then started his drive to the office.”

Yikes, that’s about as generic as it gets. The writer may have a clear image of who this guy in their own mind, but it’s not coming through clearly at all. It’s too airy and makes the reader feel detached from the scene. So here’s what we need to do:

First we start with the bland, generic scene egg.

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Then we give it a good whack with the Hammer of Details!

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Now we just peel back those cracks and…

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Oh yeah, there it goes.
Look at all those beautiful details that were hidden inside all along.

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So let’s “crack open” that scene from before and see what we can change it into by adding some details:

“He woke up on the couch and shuffled over to the kitchen to force something into his stomach before he had to leave. The wife had been up for an hour already, the sweet smell of pancakes lingering in the kitchen, but there was only an empty table waiting for him. She made him pancakes as as often as she made love – never.

“After a cup of black coffee and a few handfuls of dry Cheerios, he put on his wrinkled suit and headed out the door. His wife stopped him outside on the stoop, to make sure that all the neighbors could see their fake goodbye kiss. He placed his lips on hers; it was like kissing a bathroom tile.

“As he pulled out of the driveway and watched her wave goodbye in his rearview mirror, only one thing was stopping him from slamming it in reverse right into the house. Today was the last time he’d ever see her again.”

Hey, who knew there was an actual story there hidden away in that boring, generic egg? It’s certainly not perfect, but it’s on the right track now, all thanks to cracking it open with the Hammer of Details!

Making an effort to “crack open” scenes has helped my writing a lot. Sometimes it can be hard to tell which parts need more details, but that’s what beta readers and editors are for. Whatever sections you’re getting comments like “can’t see this” or “hard to visualize,” consider giving it a good whack with the Hammer of Details and seeing what spills out.

(Featured image via GAHAG, edited by me)

Published inTipsy Tuesday

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