Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Writing Wednesday: The Corvette Scene

In the latest Star Trek movie there was the scene of young Kirk taking a Corvette and racing off the edge of one of the famous canyons of Iowa. To me, and many others this made absolutely no sense and did nothing to further the movie or Kirk’s character development. Who would have expected such a nonsense scene from the producer of CLOVERFIELD and the writers of TRANSFORMERS? Okay I guess I should have seen that coming.

To make it worse in order to make time for that scene they had to cut the scene where Nero was held captive by the Klingons for 23 years, making his absence for that time and why he was now totally insane make sense.

Luckily, books don’t have quite the need to cut one scene for another, if you are shooting for between 65,000 words and 120,000 you have some leeway as to what stuff to keep in. However the temptation to put in the Corvette Scene, the chapter or plot tread that you love but no one else in the world gets, is hard to overcome.

My big weakness is wanting the plot to do something artistic, like end at the same place it started and sacrifice the story telling for that. In The Pizza Diaries I wrote 7,500 words to make it do that and it made it begin and end at the worst time for the story. I later wrote 700 words that did the same thing in a cool way that helps rather than hinders the story.

Unfortunately it is really tough to spot the Corvette Scenes in your own writing, but I’ve been trying to go back through my work and look at all the scenes that I really feel passionate about and ask myself “Does this advance the story? Is there a better, more concise way to convey the scene? How much would the book suck if this was taken out?”

It’s tough parting with a scene you love, but sometimes the scene you love is keeping your work from being a book you absolutely love.

The new shorter opening:

I felt the new beginning little scene that replaced the 7,500 words I had before was good enough to enter into “Guide to Literary Agents” contest where you can submit the first 200 words of your novel and the winner gets a critique of the first 10 pages of your novel.

Here was my entry:

Brian was a little taken back by the note that the customer handed him. The customer was female but he couldn’t make out much else as she was wearing a wide brimmed leather hat pulled down to almost touch her dark sunglasses. She was several inches shorter than Brian so the hat hid her face from his view. She had the collar of her heavy leather jacket pulled up hiding her jaw. Brian thought that odd, as it was a warm summer night. But she had given him a dollar tip just for handing the pizza to her so he opened her note gladly.

He always ignored notes that women gave him, but he was still flattered by them. The mysterious woman who handed him the note was somehow different even though he couldn’t see what she looked like he thought it might be worth following up.

He opened the note expecting a name and a phone number but instead there were two sentences written in a male’s handwriting. “Believe in yourself. Don’t trust Dr. Hyams.”

That left him confused, he didn’t know a Dr. Hyams. He looked closer at the note and recognized the handwriting; it was his.

By Darrell B. Nelson author of Invasive Thoughts


Stephanie Barr said...

I like this start much better than your first beginning I read (though I don't know why one doesn't trust Dr. Hyams - did that fall out of the rewrite)?

Project Savior said...

I took your comments asking why Brian doesn't trust the Institute and made Dr. Hyams a creepy control freak.
It gave the first few meetings between Amanda and Brian some tension that it needed as she expects Brian to return her to the Institute and he is trying to keep her away from Dr. Hyams, but can only go on gut instinct making it impossible to tell her that, as she thinks it's the first time they've met.
It also gave me that nice circle in the plot, having read the first version I'm sure you guessed who the mysterious woman was.