Drawing Our Scenes Correctly — Think of Yourself as Being There

It’s so important to always go over every scene we write, and then to rewrite until we’re absolutely certain we have it nailed. The following scene is a good example of one, where although not wrong, there are still things to improve. Let me set the scene, and then we’ll rewrite, and see if you prefer the changes.

Matilda is in the countryside, having gone for a walk with her friend, Cole, at his place. The two stop at a low stream and she wishes to cross it.

  • Several huge oaks made up a natural umbrella over a small inlet of the stream. Sunlight glistened like dancing jewels off the clear blue water. As she drank in the soothing landscape, Matilda realized the trees stood on the other side of the stream, which looked less than lazy. She peered up and down but didn’t see a bridge. “Is the stream too deep to walk across?” she asked Cole.

In this example there is some inaccuracy in how the scene is drawn through the center portion, so let’s rewrite, actually placing ourselves there by the stream to do so.

  • Several huge oaks made up a natural umbrella over a small inlet of the stream. Sunlight sprinkled through the swaying green foliage and lit the surface of the rippling blue water. The dancing jewel tones glistened and Matilda drank in the soothing landscape. She peered to the left and to the right, searching for a bridge to cross. Releasing a sigh, she glanced at Cole. “Is the stream too deep to walk across?”

I hope you get my meaning. In the rewrite, slight changes have been made to direct the scene’s order more accurately. I now have Matilda noticing the huge oaks over the stream as her gaze would have been directed upward, then she sees the sunlight coming through the foliage and highlighting the surface of the rippling water as she looks down. She enjoys the view, and then looks for a bridge to cross.

Such small tweaks, yet every sentence we write must be polished to perfection. If you find you’ve written something that’s bugging you, then go back and follow each stage of what would have happened to your character in real time, then ensure you capture each of the essences in the right order.

Do you think that’s all this paragraph needed and now reads better?  Leave a comment if you wish—I always love them.

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13 thoughts on “Drawing Our Scenes Correctly — Think of Yourself as Being There

  1. Hi Joanne, I see exactly what you mean. The way you wrote it the second time adds just enough description to paint a more vivid picture without adding so much that it becomes boring. Great advice.

  2. Great post! Although the first description was nice, the second one really put me in the middle of the action. Thanks for sharing.

    Best,
    Nett

  3. hi Joanne – I know what you mean about writing the scene in order. Sometimes you get stuff on the page and know it’s not in the right order (if I know it’s not, but want to crack on, I change the colour, so can amend later). But often when you have characters doing simultaneous actions, you don’t even realise, particularly in a first draft that that order is wrong. Redrafts and edits usually pick this up. Good post. Sooz

  4. I’m terribly slow when it comes to writing my first draft. I think it’s because somewhere in my subconscious I realize that what I’ve written could be better–whether because it needs more detail or the order of action is wrong or, as in your example, there’s a phrase that doesn’t belong–and I can’t write more until I find and fix the problem. On the other hand, that means the editing is usually a breeze. 😉

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      I understand exactly what you’re saying. Our first draft can be slow going. There is so much to think of. Not only are we building our characters’ profiles in our minds, and learning who they are and how they think, but we’re working on making our writing good. So much to think of and do.

      Thanks for your comment. Writers need to hear that the first draft is hard going, for all of us.

  5. Hi Joanne, Great Post by the way. It’s really lovely to see an author talking about re-writes and re-structuring. So much information is given to us about just write, write, write. I think alot of us could do with the message “edit, edit, edit”. Second paragraph makes sense and reads well. The first I stumbled over and had to think about. Effortless reading, which is I hope what the majority of us want to achieve, takes sweat, blood and tears in the writing part.

  6. You have a good point about sequencing, though there are different kinds of sequence–logical or temporal or experiential–and they don’t have to agree. The key is controlling whichever sequence you choose. Thanks for reminding about that.

    In this example, I actually like the first version of the paragraph better. The “As she drank in…” sentence is a little flat, to be sure. I’m prone to that construction myself, unfortunately, though I’ve gotten better at catching it. But in the second version the imagery gets a little too heavy for me. Sprinkling, swaying, rippling in the 2nd sentence (not to mention dancing, soothing, searching, releasing), it all seems overdrawn. The first version has a lighter touch. It leaves more to the reader’s imagination.

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