All stories (books and screenplays) have information that needs to be told. Often it is boring information. Too often writers solve this with a big old info dump that no one wants to read. Should you just leave the information out? Maybe. Often the reader doesn’t need all the information the writer is oh, so sure that he does. But sometimes, the reader does need this information. So How to Create a Scene that isn’t Boring? Consider borrowing a tip from screenwriter, Blake Snyder.
One of my favorite writing books of all time is Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
Save the Cat is actually a book for screenwriters, but is every bit as useful for fiction writers, and it has one life-changing tip on how to create a scene that isn’t boring.
In Save the Cat, Snyder offers many tips, but one of the best and in my opinion most fun to play with is a tool for how to handle that info dump, aka how to write a scene that isn’t boring – The Pope in the Pool.
As I said in the beginning, in every book there is information that needs to be shared with readers. We all know, or should know, that a big old info dump is to be avoided at all costs. Because of this we try to hide this information by sharing it in dialogue or having the characters experience the information first hand through the dreaded (by me) flashback or dream. We may even try tricks like having them watch a new show where the information is revealed or find a diary, but many times, any way we slice it, the information (important as it is) is still dull, dull, dull.
So, how do we get this information across without driving readers from the page?
How to create a scene that isn’t boring?
Enter The Pope in The Pool.
The term The Pope in The Pool came from a script titled The Plot to Kill the Pope by George Englund. The story was a thriller and as such couldn’t afford a dull scene with people sitting around drinking tea (something Donald Mass warns against extensively in Writing the Breakout Novel) and dumping information. So, the writer came up with a way to relay the information while keeping people’s attention.
He put the Pope in the pool.
As Snyder points out, “We’re thinking: ‘I didn’t know the Vatican had a pool?! And look, the Pope’s not wearing his Pope clothes, he’s… he’s… in his bathing suit!’”
This keeps our attention while the important, dull information is downloaded to our brains. We walk away from the scene wowed and retaining the knowledge that we need for the rest of the story to unfold, while never being bored.
Snyder gives other examples of how the visual image of something like the Pope in the pool can keep viewers involved in what would otherwise be a dull moment, but novel writers don’t get the benefit of the true visual.
So how do we use The Pope in The Pool?
Simple. Have your character do something entertaining, either filled with humor or drama while relaying that information.
This could be walking down the street having a conversation and the character getting her heel caught in a grate. While she is pulling it out, the one man so most wants to avoid appears with his new girlfriend. Desperate and still battling her shoe, she spills all to her companion.
Or your character could be giving her dog a bath or dying her hair and failing. There are any number of things that she or he could be doing that in their own rights would be entertaining.
So if you are wondering how to create a scene that isn’t boring, make the scene important to your book by using it to relay whatever dull, but important information your reader needs to know.
Then put The Pope in The Pool.
Want more information on creating scenes? Check out our series on writing scenes.
Lori Devoti is the author of paranormal romance, urban fantasy and young adult fiction. Under the name Rae Davies, she writes the USA Today Bestselling Dusty Deals Mystery series. Check our her books at www.LoriDevoti.com and RaeDavies.com. Looking for help with your writing? Lori also does developmental editing and critiques for other authors and publishers. See our Editorial Services page for contact information and pricing. Or check out Lori’s classes at the Continuing Studies Department of the University of Wisconsin.