Wednesday, March 16, 2011

TRANSITIONS, OR: WHAT GETS LEFT ON THE CUTTING ROOM FLOOR

I dabbled in drama in college, and had a number of friends who were serious about careers in acting and directing. Many of them had come from Los Angeles, some from families in the movies business, and so maybe it didn't seem like such an impossible dream for them.

One acquaintance landed the starring role in a WB sitcom shortly after graduation. It lasted two seasons. Others have had plum roles in small movies, or small roles in big movies. A lot of their work has ended up on the cutting room floor.

I think of them every time I cut grandiose description, screaming neon "hints", and pages of characters looking meaningfully at each other. These are the hardworking scenes that I needed to move between major plot points or change location. They are transitions, impudent hatchlings which regularly outgrow a story's needs.

Got a bloated manuscript? Trust your readers to take steps with minimal guidance. Trust them to figure out the larger conspiracy even though your character can't yet see it all. I know my little transitions are dreaming of that one chance to shine, but sorry my sons and daughters, we're going to have to let you go.

5 comments:

  1. I love what you said about trusting readers to find their own way :)

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  2. Whenever I put in that extra transition information that bloats my manuscript, I remind myself that I don't need to tell my readers that the characters go to the bathroom for them to accept that they do. I know, gross, but it helps keep the focus on what matters. Readers can fill in the basic blanks without being led.

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  3. Great post. It's always interesting to watch the "Deleted Scenes" in movies because you realize despite the time, effort, and money to film, they offered little to the overall story. Same can be said for WIPs. Looking back through sections worked and reworked, most of the stuff cut really did bog down the pace/flow/goodness of the section. It's not easy, but the end product is usually better.

    Usually.

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  4. Samantha and Sommer - I like, as a reader, the moments where I "discover" something before the characters put it together. Terribly difficult to know whether you're allowing for that when writing, though I don't think walking a character through a potty break has ever aided a reader.

    Cobra - I love deleted scenes, and actually keep a lot of my larger cuts in files called "deleted scenes". Some will cycle back in to later works, others now just round out the characters in my mind, which hopefully makes them larger on the page.

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  5. Lately I'm finding that I don't have "deleted scenes" per se. Rather, they're second or third takes of the same scene, but the dialogue got better. As if my characters are telling me "No, I didn't like that line. Let me try something else I think will work better."

    And I don't seem to have bloated manuscripts of late. Usually LadyAce will tell me I missed a scene or I need an extra scene.

    Go figure.

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