This Writing Life and Beyond Number 5

How many scenes do you write before you find the right one?

I write several first chapters before I settle on the one that seems right. I carry on writing the book and then I start to edit and discover other chapters and scenes are predictable – they weren’t special in any way.

By this stage I’ve spent considerable hours – weeks – brainstorming each character’s GMC, drafting various scenarios, creating a workable plot, sub-plot and yet, apart from a few lines of dialogue there’s a familiarity with the scene and a certainty I don’t like. It’s there, but I can’t put my finger on which part needs to go and so I keep on editing and layering.

In the end, it’s a nice scene, but I always keep in mind that people think the colour beige is nice and nobody wants beige.

The scene has all the ingredients I want – conflict, something’s happening so the story moves forward, the hero and heroine are there in all their feisty sexy glory and yet it’s PREDICTABLE.

It’s predictable because the ideas sit at the top of my mind, even though I’ve thought of several scenarios and feel I’ve brainstormed it to death.

Google is a wonderful thing – I had to find out why.

I discovered Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) which is used in marketing and it talks about a brand or a specific product coming FIRST in peoples’ minds.

Our busy minds are wired to a limited number of things to remember and for some reason we remember up to 5 things which stay at the top of our minds. Therefore advertising slogans usually run to 5 words or less, and our eyes take in and remember a list of 5 bullet points or less.

When I put that into a writing context, my brainstorming is capturing scenarios at the top of my mind with limited parameters. Even though I’m brainstorming each part beyond the number 5 – there was a certain predictable outcome.

How do you dig deeper for something truly unique?

I tried two different approaches for this.

I brainstormed OUTSIDE THE BOX for 10-15 scenarios for a scene and was disappointed because I couldn’t work with any of the ideas. The ideas were either too fanciful or bordered on the ridiculous.

I brainstormed INSIDE THE BOX, and discovered when I put in more parameters and went beyond what I wanted to achieve in that scene and brainstormed each parameter (ie: setting, 2-3 characters (each with an agenda), weather, conflict(s), plot and subplot) beyond the magic number 5 the brainstorming got richer, more vivid and realistic. It took a while, the first 4 were easy because they were coming straight off the top of my head, but number 5 was harder and going beyond that magic number 5 were the riches.

I have always thought brainstorming outside the box with only a few parameters was working, but now digging deep inside the box is my way forward.

Please let me know how you brainstorm scenes and how you know whether a scene is working or not (is it more than gut feel?).

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3 thoughts on “This Writing Life and Beyond Number 5

  1. Linda, I’m a compulsive tweaker too. I am getting better at plotting by using a story board but realistically, I’ll always just write as it comes to me. The important thing is to “Finish the book.”

  2. when I brainstorm, I like to look for a scene/plot event that really challenges my characters. Something that will force them out of their comfort zone. I also like making their story as difficult as possible for them. For one of my final scenes / turning points I sometimes make them face their secret fear. For the turning points, I look at scenes where one of the characters may win or progress in their journey but at the detriment of the other. I have to physically stop myself from writing pages of navel gazing. So that’s something else I have to look for in my ms. Great post Linda. 🙂

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