To keep, or not to keep

To keep, or not to keep: That is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to endure that which is pointless,
Or to seek out that which is not; and in so seeking,
Give enjoyment unto another.

A bad twist on the famous Hamlet monologue, To be or not to be, courtesy of my Dark Corner. Also, there are more than ten or eleven syllables in each line as per custom, but what can I say? I rarely write poetry. Still, I think it spells it out pretty well. The purpose of this post is to help with deciding which scenes are worth keeping, and which ones you may have to consider cutting.

I have devised a formula to help you decide whether the scene is worth decribing.

First, consider which element of storytelling the scene is relevant to:
- Plot
- Backstory
- Character Development
- World Building

If the scene relates to none of the above, you may want to consider cutting it.
Plot: The plot is the forward progression of the story. It is the means by which your characters come closer to their goal. A scene that is plot will include the characters either discovering something that brings them closer to their goal, or otherwise moving on to their next sub-goal (a point on the way to their main goal).

Backstory: The backstory is what has happened to the characters and within the world before the beginning of the story. It is usually not essential to the main story, but is useful to know, as it makes your characters and world deeper, more true. For example, Faine is a main character whom the protagonist meets in the second chapter. Later on in the story he will help our protagonist, Eoin, and his sister, Saera. None of the following is essential to know. When Faine was a child he discovered an Aura while exploring and he absorbed it. When his father found out he left in a rage and never returned, leaving Faine and his mother alone. Weeks later, Faine's mother died and he was forced to go out into the world and look after himself. He is still travelling now in his late twenties.

None of that was essential to know, but it makes Faine a deeper character. Knowing that, I can give a certain tone in Faine's dialogue that reflects how he feels about his past.

You can also create backstory to a town. In Aundes Aura there is a village called Tierra, and it sits at the base of the mountains. This village is situated next to the border of Meira, and used to trade with towns from the other country. However, the Church of Duthonne does not agree with the beliefs of the people in Meira, and thus contend that it is a sin to make trades with the country. The Church ordered the village to stop, but it did not as the trades were the most efficient way of keeping the village in stock. As a result the Church ordered a demolition on the village, and it was destroyed.

In knowing that, when the characters travel to Tierra they will discover what happened, and they notice how the village looks half-built as its people try to restore it.

So while backstory may not be essential to the plot, it helps immensely with creating a deeper world and deeper characters.

Character Development: This is the way your characters progress as people throughout the story. Character development is usually given between main plot points. It contributes heavily to pacing, as it breaks up the action of the story and lets us see how the character is adapting to his situation. Character development can be shown through either dialogue or, if it is the POV character, interior monologue.

World Building: How much world building you do will obviously depend on your genre. It is most prominent in fantasy and science-fiction. Deciding on whether you should show a particular feature of the world will depend on how unique it is from what we would find in our own world. For example, we all know what a dog looks like, however, it might be worth mentioning that in this world dogs have three heads and fiery tails.

Recently I had to make a decision on whether or not to show a scene in the church. I decided it was worth showing, as it is different to what you would find here. In particular, at the far end of the church there are gigantic statues of the four Great Gods. Elcalades the Giving stands in the centre of the other three statues, who face him. When someone needs to pray to a particular god, they kneel in front of the statue of the god they wish to communicate to and pray.
If the scene you have written does not contribute to any of these elements, it may not add anything to the story and just be filler.

Make every scene count.

To keep, or not to keep: That is the question
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to endure that which is pointless,
Or to seek out that which is not; and in so seeking,
Give enjoyment unto another.

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Welcome to The Dark Corner of the Mind. My name is Ryan Sullivan and my aim with this blog is to help others with their own writing, as well as to make note of some of my own writing endeavours.

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