Friday, November 16, 2012

Emotional Change: Insight into Editing Your Own Work

I spent this morning as I have the last several mornings: going through the outline of Eva and making sure each scene has an emotional change.

I first learned of this story principle from Robert McKee's Story (he calls it a Value Change, I believe). This guideline now seems so obvious, and I'm chagrined I didn't figured it out on my own.

A scene without emotional change is a scene that has a character in the same frame of mind or experiencing the same emotion at the beginning as it does at the end. Scenes without emotional changes are wasted scenes. Either nothing happened to move the plot forward, or nothing happened to the character (no character development).

Of all the possible rules to follow when editing your own novel, this one is at the top of the list. No matter how beautiful the prose, no matter how hysterical or poignant the scene, if it doesn't pass the emotional change test, you know it's a weak scene and has to go (or be rewritten).

If you don't believe me (or Bobby McKee), read back through your favorite novels or watch your favorite movies and pay attention to the characters scene by scene. The best movies have an emotional change in every scene. Or, better yet, read back through that book that couldn't keep your attention. Most likely, it had wasted scenes without emotional changes. In the meantime, take a look at your own writing, and see how it stacks up against this guiding principle.