Write the Scenes You Don’t Think Belong in Your Book

books scenes


by Meg Dowell


Last week, I wrote a scene that both surprised and amazed me. NOT because I’m the best writer ever or because it’s the greatest piece of prose a human has ever written (nope and, uh, NOPE), but because I never planned on writing it at all.

In fact, the moment the idea wedged its way into my head, I immediately tried to reject it.

Without any spoilers (because I guess you never know), my favorite character does something bad. Really bad. She knows it’s wrong, but she does it anyway. I already know that, if I ever get to the revisions stage of this book, I’m going to have to make this scene even less sympathetic toward this beloved character than it already is. Which breaks my heart. A good sign, but still.

I did not want to write this scene. I did not think it really had a place in this story, originally. Yet somehow, the moment I started writing it, I knew it was a keeper. The basic framework of it, anyway.

This happens a lot – a writer composing part of a book or script they hardly recognize as being theirs. But very rarely do we notice that it’s these unexpected, initially rejected ideas – and having the courage to give them a chance – that turn an okay story into a really good one.

The reason you don’t believe you can pull it off, or don’t think it’s a good idea, is because you’re used to holding yourself back. I’ve had this problem since the day I started writing, so don’t think it’s something bad. We don’t even realize we’re telling ourselves, “You could never get away with that.” Oh, yes you can. You’re a writer. You can get away with murder (FIGURATIVELY), and so, so much more.

I have found over the years that it’s the scenes I don’t want to write, that I’m afraid to write, that I don’t think my family/friends will approve of or my future readers would like, that end up becoming the most important passages in every story I have ever written.

We try to hard to write “good” things. It’s not good because it meets a certain set of criteria. It’s good because it comes from somewhere deep within our souls, only accessible through the words we write even when we aren’t sure they’re the right ones.

This is why I always advocate for, even though I struggle with, thinking about what you would expect to happen in a story and then flipping it around so the opposite happens. Not EVERY story works like this – I just read one of those holiday romances that was predictable, but I was still glad it turned out the way I secretly wanted to. But twists and surprises and those “wait hold on what just happened” moments are what keep pages turning – for your reader AND you.

Let it happen. It could go wrong and you’ll never end up using it in later drafts. It could also go very right, and create a story you (and perhaps a future agent) will be proud of.





Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

20 thoughts on “Write the Scenes You Don’t Think Belong in Your Book

  1. When writing a novel, it’s often wise to “go with the flow,” especially if your characters are directing the story. I might not listen to myself–but I always listen to them. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I understand what you are saying, I put a sexy scene in a book, then thought of taking it out. I went back and forth finally left it in. My daughter edited the book and said she skipped over it. I told her to read it with her eyes closed. The book is about a Realtor and her sexy boyfriend, I was a realtor for 30 years so some of the background came from fact. Not the boyfriend, been married to her father for 55 years.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s amazing how stories and characters seem to explode with ideas like this. I wrote a scene. I finished a novel some ten years ago now. With one of the secondary characters (who had been a bit one dimensional at the time) I asked myself a question – simply “what if he hates the main protagonist because he had been sexually abused by him?” with that, the character took on a life of his own and added much more meat to the story than I’d ever intended him to have.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. When I wrote my 1st draft there were parts of the story that felt ‘too difficult’ to write and so despite numerous self-edits, I left holes in the story. When I sent the book to a professional editor, she picked up on them immediately, and asked why I had skipped over things. I have now added the extra chapters and the whole book feels so much better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this. As I have recently come to a similar situation and decided that, at least for the draft, keeping it may impact the story in an interesting way, reading this has helped to build my confidence in it. Once again, thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m really curious now! I wonder what it was you wrote? I’m writing a thriller/suspense at the moment, and there is one particularly disturbing scene I know I’ll have to eventually write (but I’m looking forward to it). But this other weird scene just came out of nowhere, and oh my god… I’m so nervous at the thought of family and friends reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Reblogged this on Michael Seidel, writer and commented:
    I’m an organic writer. Writing the scenes I don’t think belong is critical to the process. I glimpse pieces at a time. You know the analogy: writing is like driving on an unfamiliar road through the woods at night. You only glimpse the turns as you come upon them. In other words, I don’t always consciously know on one level what’s going to come, but deeper level seems to see and understand what’s happening. It;s my guide, my muse. Besides all of that, I need to write to understand what I think.

    Writing the scenes I don’t expect is absolutely necessary to all of this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I have learned a great many things about the characters in my own (and my clone’s) fiction by writing whatever is in my head at the time and not worrying about whether the scene has a home yet. If the basic idea, at least, doesn’t fit in the current WIP, it’ll fit somewhere else.


  9. I have a story that I am about 1/3 done and my main character is one I love, she is brave, strong, and loveable. However, I am thinking about killing her off near the end. Just thinking about it makes me sad and nearly in tears. It wasn’t in my synopsis that way, but, I think it will move the story along, because the unique weapon has to be given to a new character to continue on to a sequel, otherwise, the story is done. Wish me luck!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.