READER FRIDAY: Share Your Most Difficult Scene to Write

What was your hardest scene to write? (This could mean “hardest” as in technically or “hardest” as in emotionally.)

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About Jordan Dane

Bestselling, critically-acclaimed author Jordan Dane’s gritty thrillers are ripped from the headlines with vivid settings, intrigue, and dark humor. Publishers Weekly compared her intense novels to Lisa Jackson, Lisa Gardner, and Tami Hoag, naming her debut novel NO ONE HEARD HER SCREAM as Best Books of 2008. She is the author of young-adult novels written for Harlequin Teen, the Sweet Justice thriller series for HarperCollins., and the Ryker Townsend FBI psychic profiler series, Mercer's War vigilante novellas, and the upcoming Trinity LeDoux bounty hunter novels set in New Orleans. Jordan shares her Texas residence with two lucky rescue dogs. To keep up with new releases & exclusive giveaways, click HERE

27 thoughts on “READER FRIDAY: Share Your Most Difficult Scene to Write

  1. I have a scene in Type and Cross where two parents are trying to plan the funeral of their daughter. They’re alone at the funeral home, surrounded by a sea of coffins, blaming each other even as they need to lean on each other.

    Writing it was emotionally exhausting. Maybe harder than writing the funeral scene itself.

  2. I find physical scenes to be the most challenging. Fight scenes! The idea of getting bogged down describing the punches and kicking, etc. It never works for me to relate the blow by blow attack and add in character thought or interaction while the other guy has got his hands throttling a throat. And if you just give the physical hits, it reads like an overwritten laundry list. Coupled with the fact that fight scenes are uncomfortable for me anyway, I’m woefully bad at it.

    • I send my martial arts daughter the bones of the scene – players, weapons, outcome, any injuries I want a character to incur. She does the choreography, and then I “writerize” it.

    • It’s important to pick a POV & stick with it, unless you feel a switch is necessary. But once you pick a POV, the scene is filtered through the eyes & reactions of your character. If a guy is getting punched in the face, he’s physically reacting with swollen throbbing pain, bloody nose flow or the sting of a cut lip or watery eyes. If a woman is aggressively fighting, she may be working a strategy in her mind or countering moves, which reflects her nature or something in her personality. Bottom line is that a fight scene can be described in different ways but picking a POV & how much to describe is key. An author is in control of the fight.

      To show an expertise in fighting, I often show advance scenes where my hero is “working out” or “shooting a weapon” to illustrate he’s an expert. So when it comes to a fight scene, the reader knows how he or she will react to aggression. My descriptions only need the brief flow of action, without too much explanation that would slow pace.

      To get ideas on fights, I’ve read books on self-defense or martial arts or boxing, but watching movies with good fights or action scenes can inspire too. Thanks, Paula.

    • Lee Child does fights very well. His descriptions of the action are always short, to the point, and very clear. Of course his lead is the infamous Jack Reacher, master combatant, so his fights are always finished in seconds anyway. I recommend you pick up one of his books at the library and glance through it.

  3. Introducing the main character – bringing in enough backstory to explain what she’s doing without getting bogged down in too much detail. It’s a delicate balance.

    • Ohh, yeah, good one, Kay. I agree. I never quite know that balance either, especially in the opening pages. We hear from agents and publishers that they don’t want backstory as part of the opening (keep it tight in media res) and yet lots of well-known and successful authors do pages of backstory in openings.

    • I think of scenes where characters are first introduced as “the defining scenes” like the kind they do in movies. Picture Johnny Depp walking onto his first scene being Jack Sparrow. His actions & dialogue say it all, without explanation. It’s SHOW don’t TELL. Showing can create a mystery that readers want to know more & they’ll turn the page. I’ll post a link on more about THE DEFINING SCENE with an example & explanation.

      But you’re right. Introducing a character can be a challenge that an author needs to have a vision for. Think about what would encapsulate your character best, in his or her actions/dialogue only without backstory. Backstory could always he filtered in later. Thanks, Kay

    • Good one, Terry. It takes thought on how to do it, like introducing your hero/heroine for 1st time.

      I like to give reader the feeling of coming full circle, so I often add elements from the beginning to give that sensation of survival or foreshadow a different future.

      Emotional punch is key. Totally agree.

  4. In my latest book, The Genie Hunt, the two protagonists argue about an old mutual friend who’s gone rogue. The memories of some of the stupid fights I’ve had with friends over the years made that an especially difficult scene to complete.

    But my editor loved the end result, so dredging up those old memories paid off.

  5. I’m with Paula on fight scenes. A showdown between the drugged, but determined heroine and the terrorist grappling atop Hungry Horse Dam, each trying to pitch the other over the side, required dozens of rewrites. I was more exhausted than my beat-up heroine.

    Currently, a knife scene is confounding me. The weapon has morphed from 12″ long pig sticker, to Exacto knife, to scalpel b/c it needs to cause lots of blood, but not life-threatening damage.

    Terry, it sounds like you have the perfect consultant. Lucky you!

    • A knife scene I wrote became more chilling when I slowed it down & treated it like foreplay. I dug the tip of the knife into the flesh, described how the skin blanched white before blood beaded, and how that assault affected the woman cop who had to watch the torture of a young woman.

      Fight scenes can be hugely emotional & reflect on the people involved by showing their natures. What’s it like for a cop to become a victim? How does it feel to be attacked & made vulnerable?

      How would your scene be changed by making it very personal in a way that makes your protagonist vulnerable?

  6. The hardest technically was a scene in my upcoming book, describing a series of things that don’t exist in the real world (a reveal of “how awesome this place is”). The first try stalled my writing for two weeks; I finally let myself let it suck and moved on. Ended up rewriting it twice, and revising it at least three times due to confusion from my beta readers.

    The hardest emotionally was a scene of abandonment in my first novel. I have a character looking back at a scene from his past as a child, where his mother left his father (and him) due to an affair, and years of controlling abuse by the father. It was followed by a scene showing the child’s reaction. Nothing like that ever happened in my life, but I still felt so shaken afterwards I couldn’t sleep. Ironically, it was actually an easy scene technically.

    • Love these, Chris.

      When I created a world, 20 yrs into the near future, I tackled technology first by looking 20 yrs into the past to see what had changed most. Once I had innovations in my head or cultural changes, I used my “what if” questions to imagine what would change in a near future world. It was fun to world build like this. The technology felt believable.

      I love your empathy for that child. You’ve got a big heart &.you’re not afraid to explore the emotion of another person’s life. That’s good writing, Chris. Good for you.

  7. I love the emotional scenes where I can draw on my own experiences, and, yes, they’re hard to write, but at the same time, exhilarating and cathartic.

    But, for me, the hardest scenes to write are from the POV of the villain, usually a serial killer, and sometimes a pedophile/serial killer. I find it distasteful and usually polish them last. My main challenge is to provide a balanced view, their justifications and motivations, yet my personal lack of forgiveness is a barrier.

    • I study profiler books to learn what motivates deviant minds, because like you, I find criminals or killers hard to write. I’ve written criminals or villains who had their own charm and humor, which made it easier to write them, especially after I got to know them and delved into their backstories to understand them. I suppose it depends on how much of a hero you want your villain to be in his or her world.

      I tend to like being in the head of an anti-hero to stretch my devilish nature, but the truly dark personalities, they are definitely a challenge.

      Thanks, Sheryl.

  8. How would a puppy outwit a savage cryptid creature that looks a lot like a dog, but it runs on its back legs, and has already killed a bear and a wolverine in northern Michigan?

    What would a puppy think about in those desperate moments as he tries to survive so that he can get back to Snow, one of the triplets. He has spent much of his life in her lap, licking her face or napping while she pats his head and rubs his ears and kisses him. He has to help Snow. She’s a Downs child. She sings so pretty, and she’s almost six, but she’s already an international recording artist.

    Tricky doesn’t know all of this, of course. He only knows that he has to get back to her.

  9. Sexual tension – two characters who are attracted to each other, but there are reasons to keep them apart for most of the book – and keeping it from getting clichéd or cheesy.

  10. A day late, but I’ll chime in. In Devil’s Deal, there was a scene where my female character had to face down being assaulted, battered, and threatened with rape. But even worse, during the taunts, she learns about how she was betrayed. It messed me up for days after I finished.


    Panic is a flowering vine. It starts as a tight bud deep in the gut and as it opens, the rush of adrenaline bathes every cell before it finally blooms in oldest part of the brain. The desire, no the need, to run, clashed with the knowledge that I was bound and helpless. Tears meant nothing, but I couldn’t hold them back as he cut the remaining strap holding up my top. The elastic fabric was now the only thing keeping me covered and it slid lower with my every hitching breath.


    I caught some heat for the scene, but it’s how my characters would act and how my bad guy would treat her after he had her in his power.


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