What To Do With Those Pointless Scenes

Learn to get in touch with the silence within yourself and know that everything in this life has a purpose. ——–Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

I have to admit I really do believe in the above words. Mind you, I might not always like admitting that everything in life has a purpose especially those times when I’m not so happy with the way things are going. Still, I try and concentrate on the end result during those times and not necessarily the process. As humans we’re like that. When things are going along smoothly we’re on top of the world, life couldn’t get much better. We’re brimming with happiness, smiling at the world, and spinning on our toes while doing so.

For a writer, it’s much like finding just the right story line, the proper voice, and off we go making words, sentences and paragraphs, spinning our magnificent tales for the whole world to read. When words are flowing, nothing could be better.

But then we bump up against something we hadn’t anticipated and the words rapidly grow stale, our sudden burst of happiness falls flat. We wake up one morning only to discover that wonderful plot line isn’t nearly as wonderful as we initially thought.

Not surprisingly, the moment life becomes uncomfortable we’re complaining and griping. Okay, just so you know, I do my share of griping and complaining. I won’t pretend I don’t. Just because you don’t hear me doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. Just ask my husband. Hmmm…. on second thought, maybe not.

Eventually we get tired of hearing ourselves complain. Complaining is a useless commodity. Not to mention that those around us start tearing off in the opposite direction the moment they see us coming. (And who can blame them. Right?)

So we can either fix what’s not working or cut it loose from our lives.

The same is true for those ineffective storylines, those once glorious magnificent scenes, those delightful words that initially made our heads spin—(who knew we were that clever?) If it’s just not working, those sentences, paragraphs, pages, need to be chopped either by you or by your editor. Ouch!

And guess what? No amount of griping and complaining over those cut scenes will make it feel any less painful.

I often need to remind myself that everything in life has a purpose, the same way that every scene in a novel must have a purpose, a reason for it being there in the first place.

Today, I am considering the purpose of some earlier scenes I have written and yes, I’m prepared to have them removed if need be. I’ll rearrange my character’s life and start all over if I must. My character has a strong voice; she’ll let me know what needs to be said, what parts of her story need to be written. It might take me awhile to sift through her life but I’ll eventually weed out any of those unnecessary scenes. I’ll make it to the heart of the story.

If only real life were that simple.

So, here are some really tough questions. If you could, would you rewrite you own life’s story? Would you cut out the pointless scenes? add a few extra scenes? Or, do you accept what Elisabeth Krubler-Ross had to say, that everything in life has a purpose?

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  1. Hindsight is 20/20, so it would be tempting to re-write certain areas of my life. But I would be too chicken, wondering if even one nuance of change would affect whether I am who I am.

    I like the new blog theme.

    • Thanks, Tricia. I’m a green kind of person.

      You’re right. Hindsight is 20/20 but that only ends up with us thinking what if. Easy to drive ourselves crazy with that question. I sometimes think that there are areas where I might have been able to do better had I known any different but those things really only come through living through a particular experience. Reflection is a wonderful thing.

  2. Those really are tough questions! I’m sure I could do with a few extra scenes, one where I win the lottery, one where I actually finish my novel…and it might be fun to rewrite a few so that I get better clothes and shoes and wittier lines.
    As for writing, I find it so hard to remove scenes, or even paragraphs and sentences. I always paste them into a new document in case I can use them later.
    Good luck getting to the heart of your story. I hope you don’t need to do any major surgery to get there.

    • Winning the lottery does sound good!

      I was smiling when you said you save the cut parts because I do that as well.—- Because we just never know..Do we?

  3. Cutting sentences, paragraphs, characters & scenes (chapters) is just part of writing. What seemed to work at the draft stage can later become a “where is this drivel going” moment(s) during the editzzzzzz. Gotta be brave. Make every part of the story count. I’ve read way too many books lately that remind me of meatloaf. (The food, not the singer.) Too much filler – not enough meat. (BTW – Not a meatloaf fan. This includes the food AND the singer.) Ever read a book where, after 70, 80, 100 pages – you can’t figure out where the story’s goin’? Ugh!

    My life? Don’t think I’d change anything. I cram a ton of stuff into each day (maybe too much sometimes) & I’ve been really blessed – though certainly undeserving. A few months ago (on Jenn Hubbard’s blog Author of THE SECRET YEAR) I whined about why I waited so long to write. Her reply was perfect – ‘you weren’t ready earlier’ And so it goes.

    As for griping – I do that only on FaceBook – in Spanish.

    • You’re absolutely right, Dave. Cutting is very much a part of the writing process. Can’t seem to have one without the other.

      Hmm..You don’t like meatloaf? (the food or the singer) How interesting!

      And Jenn is absolutely right as far as I’m concerned. I truly believe( without trying to sound Biblical) there’s a time and purpose for everything.

  4. I believe everything has a purpose, but I don’t always understand it or agree with it. Given a chance to redo my life, there are many things I would change. Perhaps those changes would make things better, and perhaps not. Since it isn’t a true option, I just do the best I can with the life I have and hope for a happy ending to my story.

    • Thanks for visiting, Carol. I agree with you. It’s sometimes very difficult to understand things that happen in life, especially some of the horribly bad things. The true purpose behind things is sometimes never revealed to us.I also think that sometimes events that take place have more to do with someone else than ourselves. But then that’s something we can’t know for sure. Trusting in a purpose I suppose is what faith is about.

      All any of us can do is our best and as you say, “hope for a happy ending.”

  5. You know those time travel stories where someone kills and insect and it totally changes the future? That’s why I wouldn’t change anything in my life. Like Tricia said, that one little thing could change who I am today. I’m here, this time, to be who I am … next time, maybe I’ll make better choices.

    • All of our experiences shape who we are and for anyone who is happy in this moment there wouldn’t be any reason to change anything. It’s a really great thing to be able to say and believe so in your heart!!!

  6. In writing I can cut out scenes if they don’t contribute to the movement of the story. In reality I believe we go through life making decisions that we consider to be the right ones for that moment. Yes, if we’d made different ones, the outcome might have been different but that would also negate everything that we presently are and have accomplished. To me that is like saying God made a mistake in giving me free choice. I’ll save my “what ifs” for my stories and enjoy manipulating my characters’ fictional lives.

    • It is wonderful to be able to use our “what ifs” in our fiction, isn’t it?

      I have known a few people who still lament about choices made in the past but to me there seems little point in it. We do make our decisions based upon where we are at a particular moment in our lives. Is there a right or wrong? I’m not so sure. For every decision we make in life there is an outcome. Wouldn’t making a different decision simply bring about a different outcome? How could we even be sure the outcome would be better?. We might think it would be. But thinking something doesn’t necessarily make a thing so.. I learned that a long time ago,

  7. The scary thing is I would study more in school. I know, right? And I’d get started on being a writer earlier than I did.

    • Perhaps as Dave mentioned in his comment, you weren’t ready to write earlier. But I know what you mean, Gayle. There were years when I had “forgotten” how important writing was to me. I was so busy with other things in my life. But then one day I realized that something was missing. I’m so glad I figured out what that something was.

  8. Great post, Laura–and hard questions. :)

    I used to agonize about certain scenes when I wrote them–does this belong? Should I give a whole scene this “small” moment? Should I write this dream, this flashback, this part that’s from a different POV? Now I realize, resoundingly, Yes, I should. Even if I cut them because the reader doesn’t need them, I need them to fully see everything that’s going on for everyone–and what went on for everyone. Sometimes I even go so far as to do writing exercises where I intentionally write, say about a pivotal childhood moment in my MC’s life, knowing full well it will never get into a book. I just want to see what exactly went on and who else was there . . .

    And re: what scenes would I change in my real life? Quite a few my family’s (not immediate family) history, actually. Some people say the things we experience make us who we are–and that’s true and I do believe we can get past/survive even the most horrific things . . . but I think it’s a tragedy that people have to. It’s kind of like, of course, you can have an amazing, worthwhile life without arms or legs, but it would be nice if you didn’t have to overcome that particular battle . . . Maybe that makes me a weak person.

    • That’s a good idea about writing about writing about a pivotal scenes even if you know they won’t be included. It would certainly help us understand our characters better. Interesting. I’ve never done that.

      I don’t think your views about changing real life make you a weak person at all.What you say is also true.. Some people do go through some pretty horrible things in life, unspeakable tragedies that no one should have to endure. I can understand anyone wanting to rewrite their life in that case. Thanks for mentioning that, Ev. It does put things into a different perspective.

  9. >>>writing about a pivotal scenes . . . even if they won’t be included . . . Interesting. I’ve never done that.<<<<

    Let me know if you ever do and how it works for you.

    This post (and its comments) is really thought-provoking and, kind of weirdly, speaks a lot to my WIP's main character, as well as to me. :)

  10. No, I wouldn’t change a thing, Laura. I have no idea where those would lead and that thought scares me.

    It is amazing how sometimes I feel the need to fill every moment of my own life scenes. Your post makes me realize this, life is not fiction and everything does not have to be a productive scene that others would enjoy, lol.

    Great idea for the giveaway – I have a copy :)

    • Maybe writing fiction is just a power trip for us where we get to be in control? Hmm first time I’ve had that thought!!lol! Sometimes life can seem pretty mundane. If there’s a purpose, we don’t always know what it is. Not so for our writing..You are so right.

      And just saying…..you don’t have an autographed copy..lol!


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