Slay Those Scenes: An Arsenal of Ideas to Get Unstuck

Everybody has that one scene that plagues them.  Maybe you’re like E. Michels and have trouble getting that first scene off the ground.  Maybe love scenes make you uncomfortable or maybe you’re unable to bring your characters to their lowest in the black moment.  Or maybe, and I hope for your sake this isn’t the case, it’s all the scenes between the big ones that stop you in your tracks.  My nemesis is always the climax, and this weekend we faced off once again.

It’s a little sadistic when I think about it.  I have absolutely no trouble torturing my characters, but struggle when it comes time to raise them above it all.  I’d like to believe it’s my way of postponing the impending doom of saying goodbye to these characters I’ve come to so dearly love, and perhaps that’s part of it.  Truth be told, I’m just better at writing the darker stuff, so when it’s time for redemption I’m walking on unfamiliar territory.

But I digress.  This blog isn’t meant to be a Jenna Patrick therapy session, I promise.  Instead I was hoping to gather some ideas and maybe share a few ways you can slay those scenes and keep your sanity in the process.  So if you’re stuck for whatever reason, here are a few things to try.

1.  Go back to basics:  GMC 

You’ve heard me say many times that I believe every scene in your manuscript should touch on at least one of these.  Maybe the problem is you’ve lost sight of what your character wants or what motivation the scene is supposed to unravel.  Sometimes reminding yourself of the objective will help you find your way to it.

2.  Check your Arcs

It’s easy to lose sight of your characters when you’re focusing on plot, and vice versa.  But remember, your plot and character arcs feed off each other the entire length of your book.  If you’re having trouble it could be because you’re only looking at the scene one-dimensionally.  Ask yourself where your plot should be at this point, and who your characters are supposed to be.  Then look for ways to illustrate both of these.

3.  Try the scene from a different POV

This is one of my favorites, and usually my first go-to tactic for the in-between scenes I’m struggling with.  When deciding what character’s POV I should write a scene from, I initially pick the one who knows less about what’s going on.  This is a good rule of thumb to start with, but occasionally the scene feels stilted and I have to re-evaluate.  The quickest way to test this theory is to switch eyes and see what happens.

4.  Get in the mood

It’s difficult to write a beautiful love scene when you’ve just had a knock-down, drag-out argument with your beau.  Maybe the words aren’t flowing because the only words you can think of are four letters and you wish all members of the opposite sex would evaporate like in Night of the Comet.  So what do you do?  Pull out your favorite romance novel and flip to that steamy love scene that makes you sweat.  Or turn on Lifetime or Cinemax or the Hallmark channel – whatever will best fit the scene you need to write — and see if it stirs the pot a bit.

I find this tactic works on all sorts of scenes.  I once watched an entire marathon of Law and Order to help with a series of courtroom scenes I had to write.  Not to steal ideas, but to get in the frame of mind and research the dialogue.  Try it!

5.  Change it up

If all else fails, move on and come back to it later.  Writing out of order might not be what you’re accustomed to, but if it keeps you writing it can’t be that bad, right?

After my struggles this weekend with my climax scene, I decided to try something a little different on my next manuscript.  Rather than saving the hardest scene for last, when I’m tired and frustrated and want to kill off every one of my characters, I’m going to try to write it first when the point of the story is fresh on my mind.  I’m not quite there yet, but I’ll let you know how it goes.

So tell us, what do you do when you’re stuck?


Jenna P.



Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: