You can change a scene without overhauling it
Back in the 80s, when I was still in diapers (ha!), the people who ran Magnum, PI had a problem. They were expecting the show’s seventh season to be its last. And so, in the last episode of the year, Magnum got shot and was last seen wandering off to heaven.
And then the show got renewed for an eighth season. That’s a problem when the star and lead character seemingly died. At the time, Dallas was still infamous for the season where Bobby Ewing had died, only to have him wind up in the shower because the entire season was a dream.
So the mantra in dealing with Magnum’s required resurrection was No showers.
How would you deal with this issue, knowing that the episode had been shot and the die had been cast?
The show runners added one scene to the season finale–of a silhouetted man in a doorway.
The way the story went, the man in the doorway was a threat to Magnum’s wife Michelle–a big enough threat that he came back from the dead to take care of him. Sure, it sounds hokey, but it was better than a shower scene and it got us all 12 more episodes.
The point is, the writers had to deal with a major shift and do it in a way that didn’t disrupt everything.
Flash forward to your work–to that one piece you had nailed down. Until, of course, that one piece of criticism that turns your whole piece on its head.
You can’t fix it without making major changes.
Or can you?
As much as I liked Magnum, PI, it’s not high art. There are way fewer moving pieces there than in a novel or even a complex short story. And it’s possible that you have to do major renovations to get your work up to code. But it’s also possible that you can add some shadowing here and there that will result in the changes you need.
Case in point–there were some problems with my entry to the FWA Collection that my writing partner found. Overall, the piece was good, but the changes were significant. Maybe you just can’t do everything I wanted in 1200 words. So I did the following things:
- Nothing. I read over my story and thought about her comments. And didn’t do a thing for a week or so. I let the idea simmer.
- Read it over again. It turned out, she was right and I needed to make the changes. But I also had some ideas in mind. So I tweaked this and that and found I needed to cut about 200 words, which I did. (It turns out my story wasn’t quite as tight as I thought.)
- Nothing. I let it sit for a while.
- Read it over again. It turned out, I didn’t get everything the first time around, so I made some more changes.
- Sent it back. This time, it worked.
The point is, you can shade a character a little differently and make it carry a lot of weight. In my current work in progress, my second protagonist is a woman in media. She’s not young, but she’s still hot–mostly because she works her ass of at it. And she carries that burden with increasing disdain as she ages.
What hadn’t fully occurred to me was the type of vile hate mail an attractive woman in a public position would get if she said something controversial. So I made a few changes–not structural, but hopefully they pack the emotional bite I want–and I hope they did the trick.
You might have to tear down and start over. But you might not.