Rescuing a Dull Scene
When a scene feels stiff and dull, it’s usually because it doesn’t serve a purpose. Remember that every scene in your story needs to matter. If you could remove a scene and not affect the plot or the reader’s understanding of a character or the setting, the scene needs to go.
So, the first step in rescuing a cardboard scene is to figure out whether or not the scene has a purpose. If not, you can just ditch it, but make sure to save anything you might be able to incorporate into another scene, such as a nice bit of dialogue, a cute moment, or a particularly nice description or bit of wordplay.
If the scene does serve a purpose, ask yourself whether there might not be a better way to accomplish this purpose. Could you move the scene to a different place or situation? For example, a conversation between two characters about a recent breakup might be more interesting in a cute coffee shop than in the living room of one of the characters. Would adding or subtracting characters make things more interesting? And finally, is there something unexpected–some emergency or bit of drama–you can insert into the scene to jazz it up a bit? For example, the two friends sitting at a cafe talking about the bad breakup one of them just went through… what if the ex walks in? What if the ex walks in with a new girlfriend? Not only might that energize the scene a bit, but it provides an opportunity to further explore the situation, how your character’s coping with everything, and potentially plant some seeds for what happens next. This is the “what’s the worst thing that could happen right now” method of spicing up a scene. 🙂