The Five Times Treatment

Monday, June 03, 2013
I had been working on a key scene in my WIP for what seemed like forever. I wanted it to POP! I wanted people to tell their friends “There was this one part…” Sadly, it was flat. Sure, what needed to happen, happened. There were emotions. There was good dialogue. But something was still missing. I added things. I edited things. I rearranged. I rewrote. I was to the point where I was dreaming about how satisfying it would be to hurl my laptop at the wall. But in the shower (in a house crammed with five people and two dogs the shower is usually the only spot for some peace and quiet) I suddenly got an idea.

Of course, like all writers I have heard – and try to heed – the advice to inject all five senses into my writing. However, in the rush of the first draft and trying to get all the events happening when and where I want them to senses other than sight often take a backseat. During rewrites, when I consciously try to “expand my senses” in a scene I often found myself relying on the sense of hearing by adding sounds. Doesn't that just seem like the easiest sense to add into a scene? Smell, touch and taste were often overlooked.

My last ditch, shower idea was to tackle each sense individually. First, I studied my scene and wrote it making it a mainly visual scene. Then, I did the same focusing on hearing and sounds. In all, I wrote the scene five times, each time I concentrated on a different sense. Well, six if you count my selecting the best from each rewrite and merging them into one scene that finally began to POP!

Naturally, I can’t recommend this treatment for each scene in your book. But for troublesome sections or pivotal scenes you want to jump off the page try the five times treatment.


Margo Dill said...

Thanks for the idea, Jodi, and a good reminder about all of our senses. I also love how you talk about rewriting FIVE times (well, 6) one scene in your novel. I think it is important to let everyone know how much rewriting a good novel takes! :)

Unknown said...

I think this layered approach to writing is really a great idea and lets the writer dissect the troubling scene or passage and rewrite, as you suggested, selecting the best of each. Thanks for the idea, and for reminding me that writing is not a one (or two or three) shot approach. Sometimes I still believe, even though I know better, that writers just sit down and write with perfect inspiration the first time-- except me!

Kathy said...

Thanks for the reminder about using the five senses. Sometimes smell is a hard one to cover. Do you have any suggestions for resources on smell descriptions....or should I create my own?

Anonymous said...

This is really great advice.

Thank you for the tip!

Sioux Roslawski said...

Jodi--what a great exercise. I think I'm going to steal that idea and use it with my third graders.

Sometimes, even if it's not a real "sense," what is going on in our head can make a scene pop or come alive as well.

Thanks for the wonderful idea...

Marcia Peterson said...

Always a good reminder! As Kathy mentions above, some of these senses seem so much easier than others to incorporate. Gotta work them all in as appropriate.

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