For the past few weeks I've been stuck on a certain scene. No matter how many times I rewrote it, something just wasn't right. I even tried putting it on hold and moving on to the next scene, but I couldn't write the next one because I kept thinking about the one I couldn't get to work.
Finally I said, "Screw this. I'll go clean the bathrooms."
I talk to myself. A lot. And I didn't say "screw." I used that other word.
I don't know if it was the Clorox fumes or divine inspiration, but as I scrubbed mildew out of the grout with a toothbrush, I figured out what the problem was.
The setting was wrong.
The part of the scene I had written had witty dialogue, interesting characters, the right amount of tension, and something was revealed that may be important later. The only thing wrong with the scene was the location. I used the same location two or three scenes earlier. Without even thinking about it, I had the characters come back to the same place. In the following scene, I had them somewhere else. When I realized I could make these two scenes into one, I could have smacked myself in the forehead, which would have been really messy holding a toothbrush covered in Clorox and mildew.
I rewrote the scene keeping all the elements that were working and breezed all the way through to the end of the chapter. At least when I get stuck in the future I'll know to ask myself if my characters are in the right place. And I won't have to clean the bathroom.
Has anything like this ever happened to you? How do you pick the location of certain scenes?