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Friday, May 17, 2013

The Purpose of the Scene

I've been concentrating on proofreading the galley for "Stranger Faces" and so have not made any real progress on "Janus" this morning. I have been thinking about it, however, and also did a little research earlier about guns, particularly rifles. My killer is going to buy one in a coming scene, most likely an illegal one, and I needed to know what sort of weapon would be the best, how it would be described to the dealer, and all that sort of thing. As usual, I'm not out to impress anyone with detailed knowledge within the story itself. I only need to know enough to make the passage plausible to a potential reader with their own knowledge of guns. Since my "baddie" is out shopping with a nefarious purpose in mind, that character will know what to ask for. I would not want any reader to say, "But no one would use that kind of gun to kill someone that way!" and then throw the book aside.

Which brings up another point in my mind, i.e., what to leave in and what to leave out. I just finished a scene which introduces the idea of a stalker, and the next big scene where the killer takes action is a ways off. How to fill the time in between? Should I just jump over the interval? I would if I could not think of anything significant that happens in it. The rule is, everything that is in the book should have a purpose. Maybe it's introducing a character or providing some insight about one. Maybe it's foreshadowing, laying the ground work for something to come. Is comic relief a "purpose?" If I were writing humor, maybe.

An example comes to mind from "Stranger Faces" of how I broke the rules in a way. One big rule is to get some conflict going as close to page one as possible, but I didn't. The start of Chapter 1 serves to establish the setting, the time frame, and to reestablish Tracy's personality, but the mystery at hand does not really start until the last half of the chapter. HOWEVER, there is another purpose behind the opening scene which follows Tracy doing her job of solving problems--the characters in that scene will return later to fulfill different but pivotal roles in the action. Even as I first wrote it, I felt this might be a risky move, but I let it stand with the hopes that potential readers would have read the first two books in the series and have an interest in Tracy, enough to keep them going. I'd also hope readers who have read my other novels would know that I hate loose ends and like to tie everything together in a neat package by the end of the book.

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