A scene, unlike a description, not only has a beginning, a middle and an end, but by the time it’s over, something has changed, something has happened without which the story can’t continue. Each scene must be necessary to the narrative. It’s probably because I’m the mother of small children, but it often helps me to think of my novel as a building constructed of Legos of varying shapes, colors and sizes. Each scene is a single Lego piece that must snap into the larger edifice. Every Lego block of a scene both builds on and holds up the others.
When rewriting, I inevitably find passages that aren’t necessary to the plot. They hang around like the random blocks left in the box when you’re done building the Lego Atlantis Deep Sea Striker. Usually I’m convinced that these passages are among the most gorgeous things I’ve ever written. It’s then that I remind myself of Faulkner’s painful advice: ‘In writing, you must kill your darlings.’ I can no more include those bore-geous passages that do nothing to propel the story then I can snap a random red 3-by-2 Lego piece onto the head of my son’s Deep Sea Salvage Crew Diver.
Good narrative writing must defend itself. Every sentence, even every word, must be there for a reason beyond its beauty. It must move the story along, pushing it toward what comes next. Good writing can and should be beautiful, but it must never be only beautiful. Bore-geous is always too much, and never enough.