Home » Blog » Writing Tips – What’s Wrong With This Scene? – No. 8

Writing Tips – What’s Wrong With This Scene? – No. 8

I’m working on the second draft of my new novel “Red Satin Ribbons”—a romance novel. I didn’t understand what was wrong with the opening scene until I sent it out for a critique last week. See if you can spot the problem.

Red Satin Ribbons
Chapter 1.

“Hey! What are you doing? Get out of there before you drown!”

If he inched away from the stony riverbed to get two steps closer, he might lay a hand on her arm. But he slipped. He eyed the raft behind him, but couldn’t decide whether to go for his paddle or lunge for her. Water rafting required a raft, a life jacket, and head gear. This woman had nothing. She stood in frigid waters wearing a sheer sleeveless dress with a jacket hanging off her shoulders. Pale fingers looked icy cold. She had a beardless Van Gogh stare. Her thick, coarse hairline bristled against the wind while thin long strands flitted in the breeze. Despite icy winds pelting her bony body, the woman seemed determined to end her life.

If he didn’t hurry and do something, rough currents threatened to tumble her fragile frame into the river. He didn’t think the woman heard him. She lifted her hands waist-high and stepped into the river until knee deep.

“Lady, don’t do it!” He rushed to his raft and grabbed his paddle. “Here, grab hold. I’ll pull you in.”
She looked over her shoulder and fixed her deep-set eyes on his. Her blank stare seemed dark, haunted, as though she’d become intimate with death. Then she plunged forward.

One bad footing after another plummeted his knees to the rocky surface before he was able to push his raft in after her. Although he scanned both sides of the canyon, the female had disappeared. Powerful waters dipped and propelled his raft upward then slammed it too close to shore. In a frantic attempt to find her, he stabbed his paddle in the waters as deep as he could and maneuvered to the middle of the river. Without warning currents blindsided him. They catapulted the raft high in the air, bounced him so hard on the turbulence he almost went overboard.

The problem many had with this scene, and I agree, is that the thorough description of the woman interferes with the dialogue that comes after.  I need to move the dialogue closer to what was previously said.  The descriptions in between slow the pace of the story, and it makes the scene a little confusing.

Many times in our need to put every single detail into our scenes, we fail to realize that we are doing more harm than good.  This poses a problem for the reader.  It doesn’t mean that I can’t include descriptions of the woman’s attire.  It simply means I can’t do it here.  I’ll have to find another place for it, or I’ll have to delete it altogether.

While you’re writing your masterpiece, see if you can spot areas where too much description is distracting from the main focus.  Descriptions are better conveyed by sprinkling a little here and a little there.  Not all at once as I’ve done here.  This scene has been rewritten and will read much smoother, without all the interruptions, once the book is ready for publication.

Also, keep in mind to watch your tags at the end of dialogue.  When it’s clear who is speaking, tags can get in the way and slow the pace of your novel.  Too few can make the conversation confusing.  You’ll have to work hard at striking a balance.

Hope you gained some insight.

Happy Writing!

Donna B. Comeaux
Freelance Writer, Poet, Novelist

My new novel, “Selfish Ambition” can be found at:  http://www.Smashwords.com.

It’s FREE.  No sign-in.

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