I'm right in the middle of revisions (or, more accurately, a third of the way through revisions) and I got stuck on a scene. I stopped, just stopped.
As I may have mentioned, it was pointless the way it was written. The two main characters were having dinner and that was it. I wanted to show them slowly taking their purely professional relationship into new territory, but that's not what was happening.
I either had to cut it, or re-write it from scratch. In the end I decided to re-write. Luckily I'd run across Writing the Perfect Scene on Advanced Fiction Writing just a day or two ago. The first part of the article is fine; it's the second bit I found really helpful, the small scale structure of the scene.
I started re-writing the scene in "Motivation-Reaction Units" or MRUs, and you know what? It really works.
The motivation is something that happens external to the "point-of-view" character, in this case, the Honourable Miss Xavia Lyon, the main character. This could be something she hears, feels, smells, see, senses, etc.
Then there is a reaction. This is broken up into a few parts. First, any reflex reactions that might happen, then what a character is thinking internally, then what they say or what they do.
Here's a motivation example:
There was a knock at the door.
OK, I admit it, this is a pretty simple motivation, but it comes straight from the scene I'm re-writing. So, what happens next?
Well, there's a reaction to the motivation. In this case:
She dropped the spoon, startled, and the hot sauce splashed up onto her hand. “Damn,” she said turning to put her hand under the cold water from the tap.
So, a few things happened here. Xavia dropped the spoon, cursed and then did something. The order here is important; it needs to reflect what might happen in real life. So we have reflex (dropping the spoon and cursing), followed by action. I've done exactly this a million times, and so have you probably.
Now we move onto the next MRU:
“Sorry Miss Lyon, did I surprise you?” Pryor pushed through the door, right on time for dinner. He had changed and was wearing a clean polo shirt and shorts.
So, this time the motivation is Pryor entering the room. Xavia hears him, sees him entering, and sees what he's wearing. Now she needs to react.
Xavia noted absently that Pryor had great calf muscles. Why hadn't she noticed that before? “I'm fine,” she said. “Just a little splash of sauce. And please, you're here for dinner. I think you can call me Xavia. Why don't you take a seat?” She served and put a full plate down in front of him at the table, then one for herself.
There's no reflex this time, so we move straight onto what she's thinking (great calf muscles) followed by talking (call me Xavia), and then a physical action (serving dinner).
And that's it. Rinse and repeat. Keep writing a motivation followed by a reaction for the rest of the scene.
I have to say, my writing is already feeling punchier. I'm going to use this going forward for the rest of the revision and we'll see how we go.