Good Stories Always Have “Deleted Scenes” – A Ramble

Well, I thought that I’d talk about editing today. In particular, why good stories always have “deleted scenes”.

This is mostly because, after a lot of angst about the quality of a longer short story project I was writing (but probably won’t post here) and worries about whether it would become another failed project, I suddenly realised that the only way to salvage the story was to trim a 1000-word segment of comedic dialogue I’d spent the past two evenings writing.

They were a thousand words that included some fiercely cynical satire, a few cool 1980s music references and lots of character-based humour. I had a lot of fun writing these thousand words, but I realised that they did nothing to contribute to the plot of the story. They literally just involved the main characters sitting around, listening to the radio and talking to each other.

They were a thousand words that I’d written because I had no clue what else to write. They were the literary equivalent of stalling for time. So, I removed them from the story.

As soon as I did this, the story not only seemed more focused and engaging, but I also suddenly thought of a much better direction to take the story in. The story seemed worth writing again 🙂

This made me think about the value of “deleted scenes” and how good stories always include them, even if the reader never actually gets to see them. In other words, it reminded me how taking stuff out of your story can not only result in a better story but can also be a great way to revitalise your story if it has fallen into a rut.

When you’re writing a story, it can be easy to get sidetracked. It can be easy to think about your story as something you are writing rather than something that people will read. As such, it can be fun to include all sorts of irrelevant stuff, to add long descriptions or to just spend time hanging out with your characters. However, all of this stuff can quickly weigh a story down.

When your story becomes less about the reader and more about your own amusement, it can seem like fun at first. But, after a while, you’ll probably start to notice that your story is becoming too slow-paced or is turning into the kind of thing that you probably wouldn’t read if someone else had written it. That you’ve spent so long focusing on trivial stuff that you can’t work out where the story is going to go. All of this can reduce your motivation.

When this happen, you need to trim these parts of the story (don’t actually delete them, just move them somewhere else) and start writing from the last point that your story seemed really good. The last point where your story seemed like a focused story and less like a fun character study or descriptive writing exercise.

Yes, this can be difficult. But, by getting rid of part of the story that doesn’t work, the whole story will be better.

The important thing here is to think about things from the reader’s perspective. This is also why reading regularly is such an important part of being a writer. If you read regularly, then you’ll know what readers look for in a story because you are a reader too.

Reading regularly gives you the ability to take a step back and think “This part of the story was really fun to write, but it is probably really boring to read.” It makes you think about things like pacing and how compelling your story is. If you read regularly, then it will be a lot easier to know what to trim from your story.

So, yes, good stories will always have deleted scenes. The readers will probably never see them, but they will be there. After all, improving a story and keeping it interesting to both read and write is as much about what the writer doesn’t include as what they do.

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Anyway, I hope that this was useful 🙂

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