Many people struggle with getting words onto the page, so I thought I’d share what I do. I’ve spoken about it before, but not given examples. I often write in layers, but sometimes I skip over several layers as I’ll get inspired to write a scene. Getting started is often the hard part.
Write the general idea of what you want to happen.
Example: Dog bites girl.
Expand on that. What kind of dog?
Example: The European boxer bit into the girl.
Spark the senses more.
Example: The brindle-haired European boxer snarled as he tore into her flesh.
Why do we care about a dog bite? Is the girl important?
Example: She never got over the attack. It followed her. There was always a dog at a house party, or even out on the sidewalk.
Have we been writing an inciting incident or has it actually been backstory? Probably backstory, but that doesn’t mean we have to scrap it. Who is my character?
Example: Suzy had been on the West Hampton police force for five years now.
Put everything together.
Example: Suzy had been on the West Hampton police force for five years now. A call came in. Domestic dispute. She arrived at the scene. The woman was throwing plates at her husband. Cheating bastard, apparently. She tried to break it up. The family dog tackled her. That’s when it got fucked up.
Suzy remembered the day that European boxer attacked her. The stench of its hot kibble breath against her face. She was a child then. The pain as the boxer’s razor-teeth tore into her flesh. The metallic stink of her blood as it poured onto the rough gravel beneath her.
That wasn’t happening again. The couple had continued screaming while she lay under their dog. She unholstered her gun and placed it in the dog’s mouth.
She shouldn’t have done that. Blowing that dog’s head off stopped the argument, but it also ended her career. Now she had to spend time each week at an animal rescue to overcome her fear. It was her only chance at rejoining the force.
After I’ve written a bunch of scenes like that and have a finished story of whatever length I’m aiming for, I edit.
For the scene above, I’d probably start with Suzy arriving on scene in the middle of the argument. Maybe she ducks a plate. Maybe she raises her voice and that’s when the dog tackles her. I might add dialogue, but only if it’s important to the rest of the story. I might put the whole scene in a different tense. In present tense, we wouldn’t know what was coming for any of the characters. I’d also add metaphor wherever I could to add another layer of depth.
I might actually develop this idea further. It started taking on a life of its own.