So this residency at SHU we had literary agent Donald Maass as our guest speaker. Aside from being a total fangurl (I want him, bad — erm, as my agent, of course!), I got an immense amount of information from his seminar. He did a very pared down version of his Writing the Breakout Novel workshop. Aside from having decided that as soon as my finances will permit, I'm going to take the full workshop, I also realized that half my novel contains no-no scenes.
In his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (which is fantastic), Maass suggests that all scenes which take place in a kitchen, a car, a shower, etc be cut along with any scenes involving the serving or drinking of coffee or tea as well as the smoking of cigarettes. His reasoning is that these sorts of scenes tend to tone down the tension of the book. I think, in most cases, he's absolutely right. Not all cases, of course. And he acknowledges this himself by giving a couple examples of good scenes in those settings or with those elements. In each, though, there is an element of tension that gets ratcheted up by the scene, rather than toned down. And that, I believe, is his point.
If there is a scene that must absolutely take place in a kitchen, make sure the scene serves the greater purpose of the story: to make the reader want to read on, to make the reader care.
It's all about tension, he says. I daresay, he's right. And that's not just me being a fangurl! 🙂
I'd love to hear what others think about this!
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