No matter how confident I get at writing short stories (and trust me, that confidence is ethereal…) I feel that all writers (even me 🙂 ) need to constantly re-assess their decisions. If you aren’t looking with a stern eye at every nature of what you’re doing, then I say that you might be letting that part of your writing slip.
So, how about those scenes? Ask yourself, do you need them all? Are they all doing something DIFFERENT? They should be. Even a scene in which a theme is repeated can be, through a cumulative effect, different and not seem like simple repetition. Let’s say you’re hitting loneliness as a theme. Your character is alone in the first scene. Okay. Maybe he misses someone. Good. (Not for him, but you know what I mean.)
In the next scene he watches some families enjoying the sun, while he chooses to walk down the street on the shady side. Cool. So the first scene shows us a man in solitude who wishes for company and the second shows us this man surrounded by people and, now, electing to exclude himself. Same theme, but each scene is not as strong as the pair of scenes.
I was re-rewriting a story a couple of days ago. It’s a long one, ~6,500 or so (which is long, for me). I’m a little bit proud, for no good reason, whenever I break 5k. However, I’ve also noticed that I seem to give myself a pass whenever I get to this amount, as if a “long” story is somehow immune to the same trials and tribulations of a shorter oner, when, in fact, if I were being honest it has to be STRONGER, as it’s taking up more magazine room and more of a reader’s time than a shorter one.
So, this story, right. police procedural (kind of):
Scene 1 – Cop A calls Cop B and we learn that they’ve had an affair. Cop B broke it off when his wife discovered it and has now taken some time off from the force to look after her, as she’s sick. The usual tension is in the air as Cop A needs some help with the current case she’s assigned to.
Scene 2 – Cop B hangs up the phone and speaks with his wife. We find that she knows nothing of the affair, and that Cop B lied about this to Cop A in order to bring it to a halt.
Scene 3 – Cop A and B meet up at a diner to discuss the case.
“Self,” I says to myself, “if somebody in your crit group(s) turned this in to you, you’d rip them a new one, rant for a bit, then rip them another even NEWER one, just in case their old new one wasn’t new enough…” And it’s true. Nothing happens in Scene 1 over the phone that can’t happen in scene 3 face to face. Arguably, it’d be stronger if it was A to B in a grimy booth, trying to sort out their feelings while the waitress tries to re-fill their coffees while she sneaks looks at the crime scene photos on the table. Scene 2 is just info that can be internally narrated, and probably doesn’t need to be front loaded anyway…
So, Scene 1 goes, Scene 2 goes, Scene 3 gets a big re-write, I cut a thousand or so words and the story starts to sing.
Go on, now you try. Do you need all those scenes you’re writing? Are they doing all the work they should?