My week has been a total write-off (pun intended). I’ve been wrestling with a key scene – not a turning point, but an important moment in my hero’s character arc – and I still haven’t nailed it. I whined to Justine about it on Thursday via email, and she suggested I should put up a big piece of paper, map everything out and brainstorm until it fell into place. Did that, which helped, but the scene is still in the resuscitation room. I tried reading around other writing blogs to see if I could find any good advice, but the posts I found were all about making sure the scene was clearly set so the reader could picture it, and taking care with dialogue attribution. Useful, but not what I was looking for.
I’m going to give it one more shot, and if I fluff that, I’ll move on and come back to it later. Before my last hurrah (for now) I’d greatly appreciate ideas, advice and insights.
The scene is from my heroine (Rose)’s point of view. The action is a fight between Rose’s mother and her aunt, and given that they haven’t spoken in more than five years, that’s a big deal. The outcome is that my hero (Ian) starts to understand why Rose is pursuing her goal, and for the first time he steps in and actively supports her in that goal, even though it goes against what he wants.
The scene moves the plot and changes the dynamic in an important way for all four characters. I can’t easily take it out of the story. It can’t happen at any other time. I can’t take any of them out of it – they all need to be there.
If the scene is from Rose’s POV, she must be the scene protagonist, right? Does this mean I should pit Rose against her mother and bring her aunt in later? I tried that. Nope. Ian’s action concludes the scene, so I tried bringing him in earlier, and that was a disaster. I really, really want to make this scene work, so I’ve been thinking about multi-character scenes in my favorite books, to see if that will help me to see the light.
The best example I can think of is the climax of Georgette Heyer’s Devil’s Cub (I know, broken record, but I love that book). Mary, the heroine, runs away with Frederick, the sub-plot hero, hotly pursued by Vidal, the hero, and Juliana, who’s in love with Frederick. After a hectic chase, Vidal and Juliana finally catch up with Mary and Frederick, and the resulting four-person scene is funny and moving and altogether wonderful. Frederick attempts to protect Mary by announcing that they are married. Vidal reveals the depths of his passion for Mary, attempting to make her a widow by killing Frederick, first by throttling him and then by challenging him to a duel. Spoiled Juliana has hysterics, but Mary stands watching intently on the sidelines until she sees an opportunity to act. She saves Frederick from strangulation by dashing a vase of cold water over both men, and from being spitted by trying to catch the rapiers in a bundled-up coat.
So I’m thinking that my scene can still be mother v. aunt. As long as Rose is an active participant and doesn’t stand on the sidelines wringing her hands, she could be caught in the cross-fire and the scene would work. All the participants need to do stuff. If they stand around and yell at each other, the scene will be a dud. And I don’t think Rose should be ‘rescued’ by Ian, but if she calls on his help and he supports her as she asserts herself against her over-protective family, then that’s okay; it sends a positive signal for their long-term future.
Does that sound good to you?
Can you think of any really good multi-character scenes? What makes them work for you?