Hi gang, Craig here again with another Expansion Pack. These are designed to enhance the series I wrote about The Hero’s Journey, also known as the Writing Monomyth.
It’s worth repeating that none of the Expansion Pack material is required for your stories. These are just as advertised. If you want to get a bit deeper into the optional stuff, you might find them helpful.
There is an old writing rule, that I’m going to paraphrase. Every scene must do two of three things or it doesn’t belong in your story. These things are:
• Build or develop character.
• Develop setting.
• Advance the plot.
It’s actually damned good advice and should be followed. Think of this as a safe haven for your fiction. It doesn’t mean every word, or even paragraph, but scene. A scene might take a page or two, and if you can squeeze in two of these items you’re on point. If you can manage all three, so much the better.
There is one exception to this rule, and we’re going to delve into it today.
I picked up on the egg scene a couple of years ago. It was one of those blog posts that brought something into focus for me. I always kind of knew it was there, but missed it until the blogger drew my attention to it.
This scene focuses on character only. This means it usually takes place in a setting that was established previously. It isn’t recommended to add this scene to every story. Think of it like a specialty tool you only use rarely, but when you need it, it’s pretty handy to have in your kit.
The name comes from an old Paul Newman film called Coolhand Luke. It’s a prison film, and Newman bets the other prisoners he can eat fifty hard-boiled eggs. This rag-tag bunch comes together as a group over this event. Prison life was pretty boring, and this added some sorely missed entertainment. The Egg Scene.
Sidebar: I actually met George Kennedy who won an Oscar for this film. Our daughters were friends in school, and we’ve been to each others’ houses. Sadly, George has passed on now.
In film the majority of these are musical interludes. Kind of hard to do using only the written word, but it can be done. When done well, some of them are the scene you remember for decades from an otherwise forgettable story.
Trick: Bookend this scene with stressful events that do advance the plot.
Think of the movie Jaws. Prior to this scene, the characters all distrusted each other, we need a bigger boat, etc. Then they spent the night drinking, compared scars, and got acquainted. There was no shark. Seems like there were some peaceful whale songs in the background. Then they all sang ‘Show Me the Way to go Home.’ I know you remember this scene. It’s the egg scene. Nothing happens but male bonding and character development.
Of course the bookend is the shark returning and using his head to hammer a hole in the boat. Think of it like the breather in between stressful scenes.
In The Fantastic Four film. The one with Jessica Alba and Chris Evans. The Four moved into the Baxter Building. We dedicated a few minutes to Johnny pranking Ben with shaving cream, and Reed having to stretch his arm across the hall for a roll of toilet paper.
This was bookended by a cosmic storm in space, saving some people on a bridge, and the press shoving cameras in their faces. The other end is learning about Dr. Doom and figuring out what nefarious things he was up to.
Settling into the Baxter Building was the Egg Scene.
About 35 or so years ago the world was bereft of speculative fiction. It seems to cycle, and this was the down cycle. Those of us that were into such things latched onto anything we could. There was a film called Iceman that did pretty well in it’s day. It involved finding a Neanderthal frozen in the ice. They thawed him out and he was still alive. The theme was the awful things we do to people vs what we might learn from them.
Honestly, the film was pretty forgettable, but one scene stuck with me for all this time. It was the egg scene. Timothy Hutton is trying to get acquainted with the iceman and they are both frustrated. Hutton stares at the fire and begins mumbling ‘Heart of Gold,’ by Neil Young.
Hint: The Egg Scene isn’t just a break in the action. Use it to come together as a team. A diverse group of talent can become a football team at the strip joint. Your mercenaries can jell over some silly game of marbles. You have to come up with this yourself, but prior to the egg scene they are individuals without a common agenda. After this scene, they are a band of brothers.
I feel like a hack for pointing this out, because the blogger I learned this from also used this example. A group of superheroes trying to lift Thor’s hammer over drinks came together as The Avengers. It’s too good an example not to use.
I’m not recommending the Egg Scene for every story. It seems to lend itself better to team oriented fiction, but that isn’t a prerequisite. In my own story ‘The Hat’ Lizzie and the hat bonded while learning to play the upright bass. Not a monster in sight, and there were only two of them.
I like to have a large chest of tools available. It’s nice to have the right tool for the job. I may never write another Egg Scene, but if I need one I wouldn’t shy away from it at all.
Now it’s your turn. Have you ever written an Egg Scene? Maybe you didn’t know the name, but it could have happened. Would you ever write one if it meant abandoning that famous writing rule for one scene? Talk to me in the comments. I love that part.