writers / writing

#IWSG Are you ever conflicted about a scene?

This post is for Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writers Support Group (click the link for details on what that means and how to join. You will also find a list of bloggers signed up to the challenge that are worth checking out. The first Wednesday of every month, we all post our thoughts, fears or words of encouragement for fellow writers.

This month’s question — Have you ever been conflicted about writing a story or adding a scene to a story? How did you decide to write it or not?

The awesome co-hosts this month are:

What do I do if I question a scene’s importance, placement, or something else? That depends…

If I’m conflicted because I don’t know enough:

That’s easy! I research until everything snaps into place. That cerebral feeling tells me my learning curve is now flat, no longer an insurmountable hill pitted with potholes. Until then, I don’t add it to the story.

If I’m conflicted because it’s a topic I’m uncomfortable writing, like sex or violence: 

Also easy. I only write what fits my voice and style. ‘Story by soundbite’ is frightening, that the excerpt selected by a well-meaning reviewer is oh-so-not-me. BTW, this has nothing to do with the topic. I know people have sex. I just don’t want to put words to it. 

Having said that, I do write about other difficult topics. Violence is a good example. My characters’ world is brutal. I portray its passion and energy but avoid gratuitous blood and gore (I hope). Sex–nope. I haven’t (yet) came to terms with that topic so I skip it. Of course, the addendum to that question is: What if an agent or publisher said I must add it. Thank goodness I’m my own agent so never have to face that decision!

If I’m conflicted because I wonder if a particular scene fits the story’s theme:

Yes, that happens, and usually one of many re-reads ferrets it out. I either move the scene to a better location or delete it. That latter choice–you should see my ‘cut’ file! 

What do you do? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

#iwsg #amwriting


Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Man vs. Nature saga, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the acclaimed Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, Spring 2022


94 thoughts on “#IWSG Are you ever conflicted about a scene?

  1. It is interesting to read your thoughts on what conflicts you on writing particular scenes. Violence I am okay with because it’s in context to the period of time and the ancient world and use of weapons was quite bloody. As to sex scenes, that too needs to be in context, otherwise there’s no point. I have removed scenes as they no longer work in the story, but do keep them if I want to add some elements of them later in the ms.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing!!.. I am not a writer but I just follow my heart (not someone else’s heart), rarely go wrong… 🙂

    Until we meet again…
    May you always walk in the sunshine
    May you never want for more
    May Irish angels rest their wings
    Right beside your front door.
    (Irish Saying)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good advice. There are things I don’t like to write about, but sometimes writing about that which you are uncomfortable makes you a better writer and more emphatic person.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There’s a lot of uncomfortable scenes in the Bible–the prodigal son comes to mind. Explained well, they are valuable. Without the discussion, they could sound mean.

      Though I still struggle with the prodigal son.


  4. I use many of the solutions you mentioned but mainly I put the story away for a while and then look at it again. The resolution always seems a little more clearer after that. I also brainstorm problems/issues with my writers’ group. It’s amazing how they’ve helped me consider another angle or option that I hadn’t thought of.

    Liked by 1 person

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  5. Everyone has different tastes, especially due to life experiences. I know some readers who don’t want to read about cancer or violence because of their own experiences, but others feel differently.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll often take a hard look at passages in question (either ones yet to be written or those in need of revision) and ask if they advance the plot and serve the theme. If a scene is fulfilling those functions, and it’s got conflict and value change, then I just try to make the scene the best possible version of itself. If a scene either isn’t working or doesn’t belong, my subconscious usually nags at me about it; I’ve just learned to listen to that little voice inside!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. HI Jacqui, I don’t think I am conflicted about things. I don’t think I roll that way. I never really had a mentor for my job and I always had to work out how to do things by researching them and looking for good examples. When I had to write a rape scene, I read a whole lot of similar scenes from other books and then I sat down and wrote it. It was not a scene I loved writing but it was very necessary for my story.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I like your answers, Jacqui! It’s brilliant to write mostly what you’re comfortable with writing, your style, and your voice. I think authors do launch out to write something out of their comfort zone, but I think that they do it when they’re not under pressure because it takes more time and energy to do it.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. My thoughts are similar to Darlene’s comment. Since I’m writing for kids, my main concerns are what is appropriate for them—the same question I had when I taught. Because I want to tackle some challenging issues kids experience, it’s a fine line between being authentic and being too graphic.

    I also focus on dialog scenes because I want the diction to be spot on. Kids need to sound like kids—not kids that sound more like adults.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Everything comes from the character, so when I’m bringing one of those to life, I’m careful about what kind of person s/he is. I suppose, that most of them have a moral compass that closely reflects my own. I should go back and take a look, but I remember writing, “I’m not a good liar.” many times. That’s me.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Sex and violence are always tricky in writing, because they’re so easily to do badly–cartoonishly badly. I’m a big fan of selective, sensory details–just a few, well-chosen, and fade to black. Especially with sex, we all know where the parts (usually) go, so an, ahem, blow-by-blow description is rarely necessary or interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. My conflicted scene was about conflict! Ha! I had two characters fighting. Then I decided I didn’t really like the idea of them having a fight. Then a beta read it and said, “They should have a fight here.” So I put it back in. That settled that. It was certainly helpful to have someone confirm my first instinct. I like happy stories. Making things cruddy for my characters is hard sometimes. But that’s life! (For them and me. 😉 )

    Liked by 2 people

  13. With a poem, I try to reduce the word count to just the minimum needed to express the idea or create the feeling I’m after. Prune too deep and the message is never created. Leave too many words and the message is obscured.

    and I’d only write a violent or sex scene if it was needed to advance the plot and only using the minimum number of words to get the point across. Readers have a vivid imagination and can fill in the details if needed.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. I think I mull, Jacqui, and end up cutting or modifying. I only have one book with detailed sex. I find sex scenes boring in general (skim, skim, skim), but violence I will write without shying away. I liked what you said about sticking to your style and voice. I think that makes a lot of sense and our readers come to expect it. Interesting post!

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I like how you’ve broken down the various ways we can be conflicted about a scene. In my current project, I’m conflicted about using language that is offensive to current sensibilities but true to the characters and true to the time period. So far, I’m keeping it.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Hi Jacqui – you’ve given some excellent examples – which many, I suspect, will recognise. Also, I guess your beta readers will advise too .. cheers Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Erle Stanley Gardner developed a code for Perry Mason, available to view with a little research (e.g., “James Scott Bell regarding Erle Stanley Gardner”). Consistency is the seed of greatness, and I admire the “code” by which you write.

    Liked by 1 person

      • If you need the link, let me know. James Scott Bell did a wonderful job of summarizing why Gardner was so successful, which translates into lessons for all of us.


  18. I’m not surprised about your research answer. It fits you . . . which fits the question! Each writer will have a slightly different answer.

    In my upcoming novella, I have two particularly difficult, brutal scenes. But they are from real life. I needed to include them because that’s why I wrote the novella in the first place. The real life horror didn’t go away when I tried to ignore it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a wonderful commentary on your realism and writerly chops, Priscilla. To write something uncomfortable because that’s the way it was. I dare say, if we drop ourselves into those ‘uncomfortable’ circumstances, we might find those reactions completely normal. There are things I would never do… unless…


  19. I just recently wrote a scene that left me feeling conflicted. It was a bit darker and grimmer than usual for me, but necessary for the story so I made myself plow through it. That’s my usual workaround regarding most any scene that bogs me down for one reason or another!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. Pingback: #IWSG Are you ever conflicted about a scene? — – uwerolandgross

  21. Interesting, Jacqui. I hadn’t thought about the lack of sex in your books. It’s there but understood as it is for most of us. We know it happens but we don’t have to talk about it if we don’t want to.

    Liked by 2 people

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