Don’t Just Stand There – Do Something!

Yes, problems with the Frenchman yet again. Honestly, I don’t know what it is about this ms that’s causing me so much grief! That man needs – in the immortal words of my paternal grandfather – a good whipping with barbed wire. Anyway, so after rewriting the first chapter five times, I then had a problem with chapter 3. It was like wading through quicksand. And I couldn’t figure out why. Luckily Dr Jax, back from his conference in Acapulco, was on hand to assist. He probably was hoping I’d leave talking about writing for at least the first hour after he’d got back in the door but he was sadly mistaken….

To cut an extremely long story short, after discussion (AKA me moaning for a good long time about how it wasn’t working), we finally figured out what wasn’t working. My characters were standing around talking. That’s it. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with the talking – it’s all conflict – it’s just that there was no action. No one was driving the story forward. No wonder it felt static and like nothing was happening!

I have to admit that this is a problem with my stories. I love dialogue so much that I tend to get carried away with it and have times where all my characters do is witter on to each other. I think I’m better than I used to be – I used to think that standing around talking about stuff was an action that a character takes – and hey, I did recognise that there was something not working about that chapter. It also made me realise that I had the same issue in a chapter in another story that also didn’t feel right. Which is progress right?

So, instead of talking about stuff, I am going to get my hero to cease his jabbering and take some action. My heroine is a PA so what does a hero do with a PA? (mind out of the gutter please or off the desk, whichever takes your fancy) He gives her a job to do. Preferably one that she will NOT enjoy doing… 😉

Anyone else have times when writing a scene is like quicksand? What do you do about it?

20 thoughts on “Don’t Just Stand There – Do Something!”

  1. Ha ha – quicksand, all the time. I tend to go in extremes – too much talking , not enough talking but it doesn’t end there – Sometimes its too much backstory, not enough backstory. Argh!

    What do I do about it? You mean besides moaning? I ask my fantasic CP’s to point out what’s wrong with it 😉

  2. Most of my scenes are quicksand at the moment.
    What do i do? Well moan and drink heavily are always great options. Throw in some wallowing. And then try to work out what’s wrong. Cos if it’s not working something is up. Then I just need to figure out what that is!

  3. The last time I was pulling my hair out trying to write a scene I figured out (after considerable torture)it was because the scene didn’t ADD anything. It had conflict, but there was no forward movement. At the end of the scene, nothing had changed – the plot hadn’t moved forward and the characters hadn’t changed/learned/grown etc. So . . . I happily trashed it and moved on to the next scene where there WAS forward movement. Much easier to write.


  4. Janette – mine is always too much talking! Oh actually apart from when there’s too much introspection but then I’m usually good at picking that up. Mostly. Yay for CPs huh? 🙂

    Becca – Lol! Hey, we’re twins! I moan and drink heavily too. I guess knowing something isn’t working is better than being blithely ignorant about it. Then again, maybe not!

    Amy – that’s EXACTLY what was happening with my scene. There was backstory being communicated but that was it! The conflict didn’t go anywhere and neither did the story. Trashing was my solution too! 🙂

  5. I tend to delete any scene that doesn’t feel like it’s working and start again. Which is a great theory if it wasn’t happening continuously with my current WIP…

  6. Poor Dr Jax – but you do have a keeper in him!!! Lucky woman 🙂

    I think the reason you’re having so much grief with this one is that you’ve come so far in your writing and so you are second guessing everything… but it sounds like you’re finally on the right track!!!


  7. Lacey – yep, I’m a scene deleter too. Even if I keep bits of it, I find it leads me into the quicksand again. Better to start again entirely.

    Rach – ah, yeah, m’dear, you could be right. Sometimes it’s easier not knowing anything! Don’t know if I am on the right track but at least I’m up to chapter 4.
    Oh and that Dr Jax, yep, he’s a good ‘un.

  8. Mine tend to drink tea. Sit around and drink tea. Now everytime they reach for the teapot, I make them do something else. Poor things must be parched…

  9. Do you watch Brothers & Sisters Jackie?
    The HOTTEST frenchman of our time ( is lighting up the screens this season. OMG. The man is to die for! His first episode was set in France (funnily enough!) and he was every inch the M&B hero. Full on SWOON fest. If you’re in need of a little french inspiration, look no further! :o)

  10. First off, much thank Joanne for sharing more Gilles Marini love. Yowch.


    Aside from banging my head against the keyboard, what do I do when a scene is quick sand? I slog through it. It’s been a long while since I’ve done anything else. But then, with this MS I knew what had to happen, it was a matter of getting on it all on screen and in an unboring way. Something I’m not *totally* sure I’ve achieved. But, like you, I’m a dialogue girl and it can be very easy to forget tags, and movement, and anything but them standing in, what could be, a blank white space talking. So a good way to do it is get the conversation down, then go back through and spice it up with all that ‘movement’ and physical beats and stuff. (stuff is a technical term, trust me, I’m a doctor)

  11. Ha, I have the problem of my characters not talking enough! I think it’s because I have them always doing something, so I guess for me it would be, “Stop Faffing About, Stand Still For A Minute And Talk!”
    One way to combat your problem might be to have them physically in a place where “the end is in sight”. If they’re having a meal at a restaurant, then the meal has finish sometime. If they’re in the middle of a sidewalk, then they have to, well, walk. If they’re in the bedroom, then, ahem, talking is not much use, eh?

    PS – word verification – Pliods. Sounds painful, lol!

  12. Sally – tea huh? Mine were great coffee drinkers but I’ve been very good lately and they haven’t had one yet!

    Joanne – no I don’t watch that show but I did check out the site. Hotness!! Thanks for the inspiration. 😉

    Maisey – yeah, I do that with dialogue sometimes. Just get down the essentials and then fill in. The problem though wasn’t them doing stuff while they were talking – they were – it was the fact that the conversation wasn’t doing anything. Someone had to make a decision to prompt the action for the next scene and I had a blank as to what decision they had to make. I was in danger of falling into the episodic trap again.

    Maya – Lol! That’s funny re your characters! Like I said with Maisey, it wasn’t so much them doing stuff while they were talking as making decisions and acting on them in a way that drives the story forward. Argh, so hard to explain but do you know what I mean?
    Pliods huh? Hope they’re not catching. 😉

  13. Yep, slow coach here, but I got it. You meant interaction between the characters moving the story forward, not the actual physical movement. *forehead slapping*.

    In stories as short as MH, in a way it’s easier (by that I mean not easy at all!) that you *have* to have the beginnings of resolution by say, a third of the way through. For me, it’s basically, asking myself – shouldn’t they have sorted A & maybe half of B by now with C waiting in the wings to explode in their faces? If the answer’s no, I go back and fix the problem (not as easy as it sounds, trust me). I know it’s different for everyone, but that’s my way I guess. Sorry for the ramble. 🙂

  14. Ack. Stalling action. Gotta move the relationship forward…you’ll have to tell me how I’ve done with The Sheikh…I won’t even pretend to have a great handle on this one…

  15. Maya – yeah, that makes sense. Yes, I know what they have to do, the issues they have to face and resolve, it’s more a case of how they do that. He can’t just tell her ‘I promise not to control you’. He has to prove that he won’t. He has to do something that lets her see she can trust him not to do that. And it’s the ‘how’ or ‘what’ he does that sometimes I have problems with.

    Maisey – you said that about your partial remember? And your editor LOVED it. It’ll be great. Let me know when you’ve posted it.

  16. Quicksand – yeah I can relate to that. It usually happens to be me about three quarters into the book. I know the beginning, I know the issues, the conflict, the turmoil and I can set it up. I know the ending and how they’ll come to terms with everything and have their HEA. I think for me it might be the reluctance to put them through that ‘black moment’. I mean, I know these people, I’m invested in them, they’re like family. How could I do that to them? I have to learn to love to torture them more, make them work harder for it..

  17. Kaily – I know what you mean. I quite like torturing my characters though. The blacker the moment, the more I enjoy it. I am evil. Lol!
    Exactly Maisey – make them hurt! Mwwwaahahaha!

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