I’m currently enjoying a vacation of Endless Summer Fun (TM) with the ol’ family. And all that implies. In the course of cramming a summer’s worth of activities in just a handful of days, I think a lot about making the most of limited time.
Part of my vacation is the ability to indulge in network TV (my parents are TV freaks, but we don’t even have cable and don’t get broadcast without a roof antenna, so we stick to Netflix, YouTube, and streaming vids, but the upside is that I haven’t seen a political ad all silly season–WINNING!), and my annual foray into watching summer reruns of last season’s hits is that even the writers on the crappy shows know how to make the most of a scene. Characters enter, impart their information or express their main conflict, and the scene ends with a cut to the next scene. No time is wasted with lead-in or graceful exits, the camera just cuts to the chase, then cuts to the next scene.
Series episodic TV isn’t quite the same as the written novel, but good, dramatic writing doesn’t change from medium to medium. In my writing, I tend to start early in the scene and end late–transitions are my kryptonite. In revisions, 9 scenes out of 10, I have to cut the beginning and the end. And every single time, it makes a better scene.
If your scenes are plodding and our story is perhaps not quite as snappy as you like, take a look at your scene transitions and ask yourself if it would play on network TV.