|But I was just getting started|
Without explaining in detail, every single scene which you write in your fictional story should do at least one of these jobs:
- establish the setting
- develop the characters
- move the plot forward
- resolve conflict
If what you wrote doesn't do at least one of these things, then its time to cut or edit. What you've written may be brilliant, but its padding, its the stuff people skim over or wonder why its in the book. Even if they don't know why it bothers them or they find it pointless, people will sense it.
Yet there's an aspect here that some may bring up: what about entertainment? What about a scene that's there just to be fun and exciting, or entertaining? Like my last post about sex and violence, where sex scenes almost never serve any purpose except titillation and arousal, some might wonder what's wrong with that as a purpose?
Well, there's a place for scenes that are there for exciting or interesting, but to understand what I'm saying here, you have to consider what actually makes things interesting and entertaining. Compare and contrast these two action sequences
The Bunny Sleigh - The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
The Barbarian Horde - Gladiator
Now, when you consider these scenes you notice some differences in tone and especially context. One is a scene of pure action and tension, the other has story and purpose. One is just there to be "entertaining" and the second is there as part of the overall tale being told.
This entire scene could have been cut out of the movie, and nobody would have noticed. In fact, if you do cut it out of the movie, the only thing that you notice is that the time traveled between The Trollshaws and Rivendell is very quick.
|What is this crap??|
I'm not going to address most of the many flaws in this scene (the scene not in the book, Radagast's absurd sleigh, how he's supposed to lead the orcs away but keeps going back to where the dwarves are again and again, its muddy and confusing, you have no idea where anything is relative to each other). What I want to focus on is how it tries to be entertaining but fails because it doesn't fulfill any of the above criteria.
Nothing takes place in the entire scene which develops any characters. It doesn't advance the plot, it doesn't set the scene, it doesn't even resolve any conflict. Its lots of scenes of the bunny sleigh riding around and dwarves charging all over. There's not even any sense of place; they're in the wilderness somewhere, but its irrelevant where. Its just lots of activity with no purpose.
Didn't The Romans Win?
Now contrast that with the simulated Battle of Carthage, with the Barbarian Horde vs the Romans. This scene hits several points in the requirements. It moves the plot (conflict between the emperor and Maximus), it develops character (you see Maximus as a leader in action, etc) it resolves conflict (lots of fighting to save their lives), and it even sets the scene: this is the first big fight in the Colosseum and it gives a wonderful sense of place and time.
|Now you're just showing off|
I chose two extremely distinct examples to make the point, but really it comes down to this: your purpose to every scene is to entertain, in fiction. But what entertains isn't "entertainment" its making your readers interested in and care about the scene. Peter Jackson's mistake with the Bunny Sleigh scene is that he just put it in to be interesting and take up minutes on the digital copy, rather than tell the story.
If you don't care about the characters, aren't shown some movement in the story, don't get a sense of what is going on, or resolve anything then its not entertaining. It is the engagement in the story, the reader caring about what happens that makes it entertaining. Entertainment is the result of making a scene meaningful and pulling the reader in.
So the basic goals of writing a scene aren't dry mathematics, but rather the tools by which you create entertainment. The scene without any of these basic requirements is a scene that can be just dropped because it doesn't do anything for the story at all.