Authors Answer 40 – Difficult Scenes

Some people think writing is easy.  It’s not. Some aspects are easier for some authors, while others are more difficult. But it’s usually not the same from author to author.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 40: What kind of scenes do you find most difficult to write?

H. Anthe Davis

I don’t know that I find any kind of scene difficult — except sex scenes, which I just don’t write.  I enjoy writing action scenes, dream sequences, extended dialogue, lavish descriptions, etc etc…  There are certain things I don’t write, like in-depth narration or exposition, but that’s because I don’t like that stuff and try not to include it.  I have been told that when my characters monologue, it’s not so great, so I’m working on that.

Paul B. Spence

I find sex scenes to be difficult because I prefer to respect my characters’ privacy. I also have difficulty with political scenes and scenes where bad things happen to good people.

Caren Rich

Action scenes tend to be the hardest for me to write. Mainly because there is so much going on in them. You’re not only thinking about dialogue but also the choreography of the characters movements with each other and their surroundings. Not to mention pacing it properly so it doesn’t drag or occur too fast.

Eric Wood

It’s not so much scenes I struggle with as much as dialog. I can hear the characters voices in my head but I can’t get them to sound real. Or at least not on paper. I doubt myself quite a bit, too. I wonder if what my characters say is how people really talk. Or if the reader reads my characters words with the same tone that I intended. I know the general direction I want my story to go, but I struggle with the conversation to get my story from point A to point B.

Jean Davis

Getting someone from point A to point B in a meaningful manner is usually a challenge for me. I can kill characters, drive them into spirited physical or emotional combat, torture them with countless obstacles or maybe even let them find love, but man, if I have to spend a couple pages on riding horseback while describing the scenery between the nearest inn and the distant castle during which two weeks pass, its pure agony on my end.  Those scenes are usually scrapped and turned into a short summarized paragraph along the lines of: they travelled, nothing happened, and now we’re moving on to what happens when they got there.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

It depends on what kind of difficulty you’re talking about. If we’re talking about, for instance, emotional difficulty, I find death scenes are the worst. I put a lot of love and emotion into my characters, so if it comes down to having to kill them things can get pretty rough pretty fast.

But if we’re talking more about the kinds of scenes that make you want to tear your hair out because you just can’t find the words, I’d definitely go with fight/battle scenes. I’ve actually been told that I’m pretty good at them, but I do find them terribly difficult to write. There’s a pretty fine line between a scene that’s painfully boring and a scene that is obviously trying too hard. I struggle to maintain the balance because often I’ll feel that I successfully wrote an amazing scene full of tension and action, but when I go back through it it’ll be super-short, or it won’t be clear who’s doing what, or it will genuinely make me yawn aloud. It can be an exercise in humility for sure, but it also makes me work twice as hard to get it right.

Gregory S. Close

I can’t think of any one type of scene that’s most troublesome.  Romance, action, murder, losing a favorite character – these are all hard to write in the sense that it takes an emotional toll.  However, sometimes they are very easy in terms of flowing from brain to finger tips to paper.  (One minor character’s death came sudden and swift, and in just a few short sentences the imaginary life that I created came to an imaginary end, and it felt awful – but the words came easy).

For me, the hardest scene to write is the one that I’m not excited about, or doesn’t seem real in the context of the characters and narrative.  I think that comes through in prose, and as I reflect on it, most of the times that a particular scene frustrated me were solved by finding the excitement in it.  The climax of In Siege of Daylight provided a lot of that kind of frustration. There were a couple of scenes that were very challenging to write (not the ones where people died, to my prior point), until I finally listened to my characters (one in particular) and took a different approach.  Then, the scene felt right to me, the actions of the characters rang true, and that which had been so difficult to write became exciting and was over with in short order.

And hopefully better!

Allen Tiffany

I don’t really think of any specific kind of scene as an issue. The challenge is always to make scenes meaningful and efficient (no extra words, nothing about the weather or landscape…only things that matter to the story).

Linda G. Hill

Fist-fight scenes are very difficult for me.  I can see it play out in my head but I can never get one down on paper without feeling as though it’s boring. And let’s face it – there’s nothing boring about a fight. I avoid writing about them every bit as much as I avoid getting into one.

D. T. Nova

Scenes involving deep levels of dishonesty and deception. The more complex and convincing, the harder it is to write. (At least up until the point where the liar has herself deceived as well, in which case it gets easier again because then it’s a belief and not a lie.)

Jay Dee Archer

I don’t think it’s really any particular scene that’s difficult, but certain kinds of narratives that are. I have no problem with dialogue. But narratives involving a lot of action give me trouble. In particular, I feel as if I’m not using descriptive enough words or I’m trying too hard. I need to find a happy medium.

How about you?

If you’re a writer, what kind of scenes do you find difficult to write? Let us know in the comments below.

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Japanese Customs that Are Shocking! (Or Not)

I recently read an article on Business Insider written by Asta Thrastardottir, someone who lives in Brooklyn. I don’t know her connection with Japan, or if she has any. She wrote this article to show Japanese customs that may shock foreigners.

Well, I wouldn’t say they’re shocking, nor would I even say they’re correct. Let’s take a look at these.  I’ll just provide a little commentary.

Number 4 is avoided at all cost.

The number 4 is pronounced the same as the word for “death” in Japanese. So, the 4th floor or room number 4 is considered unlucky. However, most buildings I’ve been in have a 4th floor. I’ve seen room number 4, as well. It’s not avoided at all cost. I think the 13th floor in North America is avoided more than the 4th floor is in Japan. Anyway, it is pretty true in hospitals. No one wants to stay on the death floor.

Blowing your nose in public is considered rude.

I think this goes for pretty much anywhere. It’s considered rude, and most people sniff. They sniff constantly. That gets annoying, too. But one thing I find is that younger people will blow their noses.

Tipping can be seen as insulting.

I’ve never seen anyone do this, so I don’t know the reaction, though I have heard it’s more likely that the server will run after the person to give the money back, thinking it’s a mistake.

Walking and eating is seen as sloppy.

Nice to see they mention that it’s okay to eat ice cream on the street.  This is generally quite true. Not sure why this is shocking, though. And while it’s frowned on to eat on a train, for long distance trains, they sell food. You can eat. On local trains, I’ve also seen people snack on food.

In Edmonton, it’s actually illegal to eat or drink on the LRT or bus. You can be fined.

There are designated people who will push you into a crowded subway car.

Not anymore. They don’t want to risk someone touching a woman and have her sue. It’s simply not done anymore for that reason. And also, there’s the possibility of injury.

People will sleep on the trains with their head on your shoulder.

I’ve seen this often. It happens. Lots of people sleep on the trains, and when their head lands on someone’s shoulder, they just try to ignore it. I think the best example of this is when I saw a junior high school girl fall asleep and her head was resting on a middle-aged businessman’s shoulder.

There are toilet slippers for the bathrooms.

Yes. They do this in many Japanese restaurants and izakaya, as well as any business where you’re asked to remove your shoes and wear slippers. Even where I work!

You must always bring a host a gift.

It’s extremely common. But I’m not sure how this is shocking, because it’s common to bring a gift, like wine or something, to a party you’re invited to in Canada.

Pouring your own glass is considered rude.

Depends on the situation, but this is something that is often true. Though I think it’s more courtesy when someone pours your glass, I have seen many people pour their own glass.

Slurping your noodles is not only seen as polite – but it also means you have enjoyed your meal.

This is true. It’s normal to slurp your noodles in Japan. I don’t do it, because whenever I’m eating noodles, I’m often at lunch from work, and I haven’t perfected my slurping. If I try, I’ll get the soup on my shirt.

I have to make one extra comment about the temperature of the noodles. They are so hot that they can burn. People also eat them so fast, a big bowl in only 5 minutes, that they’re at risk for throat or esophageal cancer. The hot soup and noodles can damage the esophagus so much if eaten frequently that cancer has been known to develop (told to me by a doctor).

Sleeping in capsule hotels in rooms barely bigger than a coffin is very common.

They are common near train stations, and they are used when people miss the last train. Quite often, women are not allowed. A good alternative is a manga or internet cafe, which have private booths with either a chair and computer or a sofa, computer, and TV. They even have showers and free drinks.

My verdict on this article is that it’s not shocking at all. Some of these things are a little surprising, while others are not at all surprising. And some are no longer true, such as the subway pushers, unless they exist somewhere other than Tokyo. I’ve been on the subway in Tokyo during rush hour where people push themselves into the train. Can’t get on? Well, they wait.

I think what shocks me is when I’ve been in a store for an hour and they’re still welcoming me to the store. Or the incredibly profound and rather embarrassing apology for getting my order at McDonald’s mixed up with another customer’s. The manager came out while we were surrounded by many customers and apologised so strongly with a deep bow. I felt a little self-conscious in that situation. I was already rather conspicuous, being the only foreigner in there.

If you’ve been to Japan, is there anything that has surprised you? Or how about any other countries? Let me know in the comments.