There. I said it.
Except it doesn’t have to, or at least I don’t think it does.
I am not saying that it doesn’t stink when your editor or beta reader says something like, “Good premise, but I can’t connect to the character” or “I like where you were going, but the scene fell flat” or even, “Grammatical errors make this section unreadable.”
What I am saying is that there are things that you can do in your own editing before you send your work to a content, copy, and/or line editor to make the comments fewer and the sting lesser.
One place that I have realised I can improve when I begin the editing process is in the area of an overall scene. Sometimes I am so into the story, and I know the story so well, that I zoom past a scene leaving it lacking in movement.
A scene has to employ the senses. A scene needs body language.
Read one of your own scenes.
Is your character clenching their fists, making notes in a notebook, removing their glasses and rubbing the bridge of their nose?
We do not just stand or sit and talk. Did a character bring coffee? Maybe she is stirring in a spoon of sugar that is long dissolved.
What does your character’s voice sound like? Intonation? Pitch? Tone?
Don’t just use the three commonly used senses – Sight, touch, and hearing – but expand your reach and go for taste and smell, as well. Is your character outside? Can he smell a freshly cut lawn (which tells us it is likely not winter and the weather is warm and sunny)? What does it smell like to him? Why?
Details are important. They are what gives your reader a more intimate glimpse into the psyche of your character. It is what begins to layer the complexities of your character.
As you reread your scene, look for conflicting emotions, spontaneous actions and reactions, and flaws.
Is your character three dimensional on the page?
I read about a character who was house hunting with her wife. The author never said she was freakishly tall, but she did describe the bend in her shoulders as she ducked under each door frame, and her wife did tell us that one of her favorite parts of being married to her wife was that she never had to use a ladder to retrieve the china that they kept on the highest shelf in the pantry.
Finally, after you read your scene, close your eyes.
Check to see if you can see what your character is feeling from their movements and reactions. Have you painted a picture that you can see? If you cannot close your eyes and see, your reader will not be able to either. Rewrite the scene the way it is playing in your mind while your eyes are closed. Your character needs to feel/react/act so the reader can experience the moments with them.