If you’ve written for any amount of time, you know that feeling, the one you get when you’ve perfectly envisioned a great scene. It can be as satisfying as anything we do in telling our stories, and it’s one of the moments we search for in what may otherwise become drudgery.
For me, the very first time I had that feeling was with Salvation Day. I was looking for a way to add an element of horror that would drive the main character further towards insanity and the dark side. It occurred to me to have him find a dead body in his bed, and then to have that dead body suddenly animate and talk to him before disappearing. I could see the waxy color of the person’s skin and feel the fear in the main character’s voice. As I outlined it, I made sure to be very specific on what I wrote down because I wanted to capture it exactly when I finally committed it to paper.
Needless to say, it was one of the best feelings I’ve had in my writing career. Of course, coming as early as it did, I’ve struggled to feel that way again. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed similar success on envisioning exact scenes, but those instances have occurred further apart than I originally thought they would. Since that feeling happened so soon in my first big novel, I figured it’d be the norm. It wasn’t.
And that’s probably why I’m writing this, to stress to you to savor that feeling when it happens. Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbes fame said that every once in a while an artist will find himself sitting in a beam of light while angels sing in the background, but not often. That’s what it feels like when you’ve figured out that perfect scene, but if you experience it too early in your career, it’s easy to think it’s an everyday thing. It’s not. Search for it and savor it. Believe me, you’ll know when you find it.