There is a scene in my book that I keep going over and over and over and over. It is no good going away from it and coming back to it in a while, as I have been doing this on and off for the last six months. It is not an important scene in so far as you probably wouldn’t remember it after you'd read the whole book, but it is kind of crucial in establishing an important relationship – if I can’t get it right, you won’t understand why people behave as they do later on.
My protagonist receives an unexpected visit from an old friend. The last time she saw this friend, all sorts of bad things happened, but that was many years ago. So she feels very conflicted, like you do. On the one hand, there is all this unresolved tension and upset suddenly dragged to the surface after all these years. On the other hand, there is that thing you get with old friends where, no matter what, you have a closeness, an affinity, I dunno – clearly I am emotionally illiterate, which is why I’m having such difficulty.
Thus the resulting conversation seems impossible to write. These two characters seem determine to launch into Tennessee Williams style speeches – they'll adopt the accents if I’m not careful. But people can say things in plays which they can’t say in books and dear God, it is awful. At one point they both started crying and I had to slap their faces and demand they get a grip. It seems unlikely that either of them would attempt to confront the past head-on, not during a first meeting after all these years.
Attempts to get through this have included giving my protagonist a cat. Honestly, I attempted intergrating this stupid cat into the entire plot just for the benefit of this one scene. My protagonist could remain cold and aloof, but the cat sat on her old friend’s lap and purred, symbolising her unspoken affection and… oh well you get the picture and it was even worse than it sounds.
I was about to explain other ways in which I have tried to get over this, but they were all so bad it would be embarrassing to even try to write it down. Whatever happens, I have to rewrite the current disaster which includes the line of dialogue:
“Last time we touched, you broke my collarbone.”
I’m now going to lie in a darkened room and consider alternative careers for a severely disabled twenty-five year old with no qualifications or work experience.