A challenge that I took advantage of when I was stuck in a scene that felt wooden, didn’t work, or simply refused to write myself was called “The Antithesis Method”. As simple as that:
Just write the scene exactly opposite to what you had planned. If they were friends, let them fight. If they robbed a bank, let them rob you. If you went to a wedding, land them at a funeral.
Sounds like a lot of work and a lot of disassembly? Trust me, it is – say it can be worth it.
In my debut novel Divinity and the pythonI had a scene where Shaynie meets Vest at an appointment. I tried everything to make this scene work: I made her jokes funnier, I deepened her emotional revelations, I made it complicated when one and then received both calls and disrupted her date. None of my variations worked, and all of them felt like a scene had the entire plot of the novel in a loop pattern and spinning the wheels. I puzzled over it longer than I want to admit before deciding on something radical:
What if the opposite has happened? What if Shaynie waits for Vest to appear on her date and … he never arrives?
I wrote the scene. Loved the scene. Suddenly, the tensions and operations and the conflict were back in the book. This one annoyed scene got the whole novel on the track again, and besides, everything I wanted to show these two lovers and reveal to each other was much sweeter than it happened later.
Since then I have used the antithesis method whenever something is wrong, stuck or just not ringing properly. The entire first draft of In the shadow of the summit was complete when I realized that the dead boy’s identity – the villain – just didn’t seem scary or creepy enough. Enter the antithesis method, and although the rewriting was tedious, the payout was massive; The dead boy’s identity became someone nobody (not even me!) Would have ever suspected.
The antithesis method struck again yesterday when I recorded the movements of the antagonist in my new WIP. The shadow collector. His / her motifs seemed so tired. So cliché. But … what if he / she works towards that? opposite Gate?
Good. This is chill more.
(Here’s more about Stuck on a Scene? Try this trick)
Why does it work
When we reverse the outcome of a goal, subject, or entire scene, we force our imagination to consider other solutions – and complications – that fundamentally change the core problem that our protagonist or antagonist faces. As such, it can broaden the arc of our story and force our characters to use resources that they (and maybe we) didn’t know they had. It can also reveal motives and goals that they (and we!) Didn’t know they were holding.
At the micro level, even reversals that don’t necessarily turn the action upside down (ie, turn a sunny day into a thunderstorm or move from a church to a bar) can cause a stronger blow within a scene.
In addition, reversing a scene – or elements within a scene – can help uncover what is important and what may be just stage clothing that we really didn’t need. (Example: What if you moved your fight scene from a static street to a moving subway? Would symbolism be added or lost?)
(Here are more tips on 5 tips if you get stuck in a scene.)
How it goes:
1. First, you don’t have to be married to the reversal you write.
Remember: you’re doing it because something doesn’t work on the scene you have, and you’re hoping to reveal what’s wrong.
2. They can grow big (or small).
Go big and change your entire villain like me in In the shadow of the summit. Go moderate and turn a scene upside down like I did Divinity and the pythonor go small and postpone day in night, sun in rain or a summer novel in the cold, in the middle of winter.
3. Take notes.
Maybe even in the form of a Venn diagram – what was different in each scene and what kind of things remained in the overlap. From there you have a better idea (as well as your intuitive knowledge) which scene works better and why.
(Here is more about the Busta scene: getting over scenes that are difficult to write)
Have you tried the “antithesis method” yourself? Would you be willing to give it a try?
Let me know in the comments below and as always have fun writing!
Your novel Divinity and the python, a paranormal romantic thriller, was inspired by a cold day in Edmonton when the exhaust rising in the heart of downtown seemed to be the buildings and released their souls. The series continues with its latest release, In the shadow of the summit.
He is persecuted
Andrew Gavin knows he’s a train wreck. Even before he became a detective, Andrew’s first trauma – at just seventeen – happened when he witnessed a cruel suicide. Since then, a deception has appeared that he calls The Dead Boy when his fear is too close to the edge …
He is hunted
Andrew is goaded and shot by The Dead Boy and kills an unarmed teen bully in a fit of rage. He is suspended from the force and is waiting for a possible murder charge. He retires to the Rocky Mountains. There the dead boy mocks him every day. Except…
He is starving
Elizabeth McBrien, the children’s treasure he despised, is also at home in the mountains and shocked Andrew by revealing that she also sees The Dead Boy. Astonished that the mind is not a deception but real, Andrew is further upset when he learns that The Dead Boy has “made friends” with Kyle, a seriously ill child who loves Elizabeth.
Now it’s specter against cop in a race for Kyle’s life, and The Dead Boy insists that Kyle’s survival depends on the secrets Andrew has about this long-ago suicide. But Andrew knows that the whole truth will destroy him and also destroy every new chance he has with Elizabeth. But they are running out of time; Kyle dies and The Dead Boy is ready to sacrifice everything to walk among the living again …
“In the shadow of the summit is a paranormal romance like you’ve never read before. This novel takes place in the spa town of Jasper amidst the splendor of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and combines love, mystery and a persistent, deeply psychological, very personal haunting. Randall really delivers the goods with this. “
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