Sunday, July 08, 2018

Writing Prompt: The Re-Write: This Scene Is Lacking Something

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

This week’s prompt is designed to help you practice your revision skills without the risk of messing up your manuscript. Edit the bad writing, strengthen and clarify the goals, conflict, and stakes, develop the setting, establish the character, etc. You know the drill.

You have to keep the bones of the piece, but how you get those ideas across is up to you. Add whatever details strike you, as long as you can still identify this scene as the scene I started—so no completely rewriting it from scratch. The goal is to make this monstrosity better.

Today, it’s about fleshing out a scene that’s missing something—in this case, everything but the dialogue (and half of that is empty dialogue).

Edit this “white room” conversation into something worth reading.

Write as much or as little as you’d like. Genre, market, details, and context are all up to you.

“I don’t know about this.”

“It’ll be great, trust me.”

“People who say that never should be.”

“This time it’s different, I promise.”

“You’re not building any confidence here.”

“What do you want me to say? That I’m sorry? Well I’m not.”

“And that’s supposed to make it better?”

“No, it’s supposed to make you take a risk and do something that might actually change your life.”


  1. Great exercise. Dialogue is great.

  2. Kitt peered down at the water below, his face clouded with doubt. “I don’t know about this.”

    Typical Kitt. He’d been so anxious to join me on my challenge jump. So enthusiastic and sure that this would be the perfect way to grab the attention of the members of the swim team. As usual, he’d started to freak when he realized we were twelve feet above the water and roughly half a mile from shore.

    “It’ll be great, trust me.” I tried to sound sure of myself, but Kitt’s anxiety had a way of rubbing off on me. I knew I could do it. I’d been prepping for this for months. But what if something happened: if Kitt got a cramp, if the water was frigid, if ….

    “People who say that are all talk. None of them have actually done it.” Kitt turned his face to me. “You of all people should know that.”

    I did know that. “This time it’s different, I promise.” My voice sounded even less confident. I’d heard all the stories. Even the best swimmers on the team chickened out when the got up here and saw what it was really like. Kitt and I hadn’t made it past tryouts last year. Why did I think we’d be able to do something others couldn’t?

    “You’re not building any confidence here, Terri.”

    “I tell you what. I’ll go first,” I burst out. “Watch me and when you see I’m okay then you jump.” I gave him my most brilliant smile. “I’ll be waiting for you.”

    “‘You trying to make me look bad? My girlfriend can do this but I can’t?” Kitt balled his fist. I knew what he was thinking. About what happened after the game last month. Kitt hadn’t come. He’d complained of a sore throat. I’d wanted to go to see my best friend, Cassidy make her already legendary shots from a three-point range. Kitt had insisted I not ride my bike, but it was my only option for getting to the game. Driving was still a few agonizing months from reality. On the way home, I’d almost ben run over by a car filled with kids delirious from the joy of having beaten the team with the best option for winning state. And the player who’d managed to blow her chance every time the ball came her way.
    Cassidy’d been too stunned to talk. I’d tried to console her, but she wouldn’t listen. An awful night. “What do you want me to say? That I’m sorry? Well I’m not.”

    “And that’s supposed to make it better?”

    “No. That’s in the past. We’re here now. We’re talking about taking a risk and doing something that might actually change your life.”