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Packing Heat 121: Skipping Ahead

Packing Heat is a podcast I've been putting out since 2007. My goal is to help other writers stay motivated, and to encourage them to take their writing to the next level. You don't need special gadgets to listen; Packing Heat plays in your browser, like YouTube. Or you can subscribe (and leave me glowing feedback) at iTunes!

Skipping Ahead

I know several authors who skip sex scenes and don't write them until the story is otherwise done. I always wonder why.
  • embarrassment
  • frame of mind
  • need to know how the story goes to shape the scenes
  • separation of plot and sex in the author's mind

I consider the sex scene too critical to skip over. The tenor of the sex scene will affect every single thing that happens afterward in the story. It's a very powerful comment about the revolution of the relationship.

Working Backwards

Let's say you do fill in your sex scenes later. It might give you an advantage in shaping your scene, if you know how the relationship is between your characters in the scene before, and how you want that relationship to have changed in the scene after.

How would that play out?

  • If you know you want to solidify the relationship, you know that the arc of your sex scene would be to start out shaky and end up solid and wonderful.
  • If you want your characters to be more unsure of one another after the sex scene, you can have them misread one another's motivations in bed.
  • If you want to reveal something about the non-POV character to the POV character, have them do something surprising during the scene.

How I do it

Since I'm a discovery writer, I'd have a rough time of leaving all my sex scenes until last. That would be like leaving out all the conversations. My characters always end up somewhere new after each sex scene, otherwise the scenes would be superfluous. And how would I know where to start the subsequent scene with an unknown starting point?

I find that I do tend to skip disagreements and arguments when I write, and fill them in later. They're not quite as delicately balanced as sex scenes, so you can write "they argue" and a little summary of how the argument ends without much damage to the narrative flow of the finished piece.

I suspect I skip these types of scenes for the "frame of mind" reason. I hate arguing or disagreeing with other people, and even writing about it makes me uncomfortable.

Your Assignment

Create a Post-It that says "why did I stop?" and stick it to your monitor. The next time you want to skip a scene, take five minutes and reflect or journal about the reason why. Let me know what you come up with!

Listen to the show, 15 minutes


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 22nd, 2010 06:10 pm (UTC)
Yes! Exactly, thank you. I find I can't skip any scenes entirely, as generally something unexpected will happen or the characters will end up in a different mood to the one I intended.

Unfortunately, that does mean that if I have a scene to write that I'm not particularly looking forward to (major angst and arguments being my least favourites to write), that it's easy to get stalled and find something else to write instead. I don't tend to have that problem with the sex scenes, though. They're generally my favourite bits to write, even if I do find they take the longest (cliche avoidance and trying to find original ways of describing the same thing takes time).
Sep. 22nd, 2010 07:08 pm (UTC)
I'm surprised to hear you feel the same way about angst and arguments. I'm not sure why...I guess I thought the other thing people would skip are tedious transitional scenes, which I would argue that they obviously need to make those scenes more interesting if they're too bored to write them themselves.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
I don't write tedious transitional scenes if I can possibly help it. I just launch into the next interesting bit and hope that I can get away without anything inbetween - let the reader fill in the gaps.

I think the problem with angst and arguments is that I always end up feeling like my POV character, and I don't enjoy getting that wound up.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
The joy of not writing for profit (as in no one cares when you finish it, if ever) is you can just leave it for months and then go back. :-) But I don't do well with skipping ahead. I tend to want to do everything very linearly (in life in general). How can you walk down the road on the other side of the ravine if you didn't build the bridge? Sometimes I'm not sure what kind of materials to use or what style of bridge, so I go somewhere else for awhile until I decide what to do. :-)
Sep. 22nd, 2010 07:09 pm (UTC)
What a nice metaphor!

I think more and more pro writers have an outline and stick to it, so they can skip around. I don't find that works for me. Even with an outline and a clear idea of where the scene is going to go, when I sit down and put my fingers to the keys, "the alchemy" happens and I end up somewhere I didn't plan, but better.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 07:13 pm (UTC)
Even as an outliner type I find I can't skip scenes - sex scenes or otherwise. Oh and I definitely wouldn't skip arguments. With the sex scenes I may have to flesh them out a bit more later, get a bit more detail in. But with arguments I'll probably have to cut them down. Once they start they don't end easily! They're nearly as much fun as the sex! :D

But yeah, I have to write in order and can't skip ahead. I can't get the characters to develop properly any other way.

Sep. 22nd, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
I recently let Vic lay into someone who really had it coming, and it was fun. Practically wrote itself. But arguments between two characters I love are very hard for me.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 09:02 pm (UTC)
Ooh, I find they're the most fun of all. So much emotion invested in them.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
I can't skip any scene. I feel it would either be forced or not be true to the characters - as I've written what comes next and brought that baggage along. Does that make sense? I can't think of the right word - I totally blame jet lag - but it tarnishes the scene for me. It's one of the reasons I love working with Ali - we never know exactly what the other will write, it's always fresh not forced. There is always an element of surprise we have to deal with. And after four years, we rarely disagree about what the other has written.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
That makes total sense to me. In fact, it strikes a chord inside. I think writing is a fine balance of planning and discovery. The way you work with Ali reminds me of the way The Starving Years is coming along. There's a level of "I can't plan this too much" that keeps it fresh. Or, another way of putting it, is that the only thing you can really plan is the backstory. It's a little bit like improv comedy, I think.
Sep. 23rd, 2010 12:07 am (UTC)
Yes, it is a fine balance. Improv is a good word, it prevents 'forcing' a story along.
Sep. 22nd, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
I *hateloathfearhate* writing arguments and conflicts - physical fights not so much, but the verbal, where the real hurt would get done? I hatses it. At least now I can recognise the pattern as I write slower and slower and slower as I get closer to the point in the plot where one needs to happen in a story! I can't skip them, though - I'd never come back and face the horror if I did.
Sep. 23rd, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
That's so wild. I really hadn't realized this was so prevalent.
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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