It can happen to any writer. There you are, typing along a great pace when – BOOM – you hit a wall. Even the most high velocity stories can stall out when you least expect it. Keeping the action going from scene to scene is no easy task, but it’s a definite requirement for sellable story. No matter how many James Bond-esque events you can string together, there’s always the risk of losing the audience at a slow point.
Here’s the good news. The source of this problem is likely derived from one source: your well of information has dried out. A strong story continually reveals answers to the audience. If you’ve run out of answers, maybe you should start asking yourself some questions:
What is the primary purpose of this scene?
- What does your character want at this moment?
- What “must-know” information needs to be conveyed in order for the scene to be valuable?
- What new information can you uncover at this point?
- How can you communicate this information visually?
The answers to the above questions can bring clarity when the bigger picture seems a bit out of focus. Additionally, it may be time to take a step back and assess the story from a stylistic perspective. Here are suggestions to keep the momentum going.
Let the visuals do the talking. Always avoid stating the obvious when you can imply it with the visuals. For instance, if your main character is about to announce to her spouse that she’s pregnant, she could do so in a metaphorical way – placing a crib at the foot of their bed or filling the cooler with pickles and ice cream -- instead of simply saying, “I’m pregnant!” This is a powerful way to round out the context of the setting and it often sets the stage for symbolism and dimension in future scenes.
Make the dialogue snappy. Too much dialogue in one scene can be a sure-fire stall for many audiences. Every conversation should serve one of two objectives – communicating plot essentials or building character profiles. If you have two characters conversing about the weather for 10 minutes, it’s time to take a closer look at how you can make your discussions more meaningful.
Cut the scene: Why should your scene begin with your character entering the setting and end when she leaves? One proven technique to avoid stalling is to start late in any scene and end as early as possible. Evaluate each scene that you’ve written to see where you can cut the timing. You may find that you can convey the same message in a much quicker timeframe, keeping the story clipping along at a solid pace.
Keep it fresh. Once you give your audience a slice of information, avoid telling it at length again and again. Your main character announced her pregnancy to her spouse and, thus, the audience. If you write scene after scene featuring her telling her friends, family and co-workers, your audience will quickly tire of the news. It doesn’t matter if it’s a revelation to other characters; your audience is always hungry for something new.