Fiction Writing Tips: Keep it Relevant

Family watching television, c. 1958
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Redundant scenes

  • When you first write fiction you allow yourself free rein to write any scene you want to make the story you want to read. This is great!
  •  But when it comes to re-reading your novel you may notice that some scenes, though fun,  are actually irrelevant to the story. These usually need to be rewritten or reworked to make the story work.
  • Think of TV and Films/Movies. No scene in a film or TV show is random, so if you’re watching a crime show and a scene appears out of the blue of two people talking, you know that is has some relevance to the episode. It could be the writer trying to mislead you into believing someone else committed the crime, or they could be highlighting someone who is involved in the crime, but it is important.
  • The same goes with fiction. No scene should be wasted. You don’t need to go overboard with this advice and plot every little detail but it should always be a part of the plot or have a reason for being in the story, even if it’s just part of the characterization.
  •  As tempted as you might be to add inconsequential scenes to your fiction, my advice is to resist or to, at least, change these so that they are relevant.
  • Think of films where you watch a scene and think `Who is this person? What are they doing there?’. Usually you later find out that they are integral to the plot. Keep that in mind with your stories. Your reader will, most likely, react the same way to out-of-place scenes as you would.

(This is similar to the concept in Chekov’s Gun where something seems unimportant but isn’t)

13 thoughts on “Fiction Writing Tips: Keep it Relevant

  1. I like this . . . but I think something should be added to the “no scene wasted” part. I agree that no scene should be wasted but I think writers should be careful with other things. I think it’s ok to add things like people, or objects or sometimes even places that don’t hold major relevance to the story as a whole, even if they might in one particular scene. I think writers think no matter what tiny thing they write about it needs to hold this HUGE value and place or readers might be confused or something but it makes for really long boring books because they need to explain everything in so much detail and most of the time it just ends up detracting from the story because it’s not really needed.

  2. I am currently going through this very thing. This is my second novel for this publisher, the second in a series, and what I think is relevant for character development, story structure, and prep for the next book in the series, is not viewed as such. I trust the editors know what they are doing, so we’re cutting and cutting, and believe me it is painful.

    • That is tough! That’s one of the very reasons I chose to self-publish and become an indie author though. I wanted to write my book my way, not have someone else tell me how to write it. I did have to take out one section after I sent it to the editor but that was it. I really hope your book ends up as close to how you wanted it as possible. You should go ahead and enter my book giveaway too! (Click on my name, it’ll lead you to my blog). Good luck with your books and writing!

  3. This is such a good principle to use when doing revision. Evaluate each scene for its relevance. When I wrote my first novel I outlined AFTER I’d finished and asked myself what the purpose of each scene was in relation to the story. Thanks for a great post.

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