by Jessica Nelson
I woke up the other morning with an irresistible urge to watch Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. So I did.
Look familiar? If you can’t place it, it’s from the beginning of the song “Great Wide Somewhere,” right after Gaston proposes marriage to Belle.
I get to this scene, and the most seemingly random thought strikes me that I haven’t been able to shake ever since.
What ever happened to those farm animals?
Who took care of them while Belle was with the Beast, and Maurice was lost in the woods? When Belle and her father moved into the castle, did they sell the farm or bring their goats and chickens with them?
Like I said, seemingly random and probably unimportant—unless you’re a writer. Those animals are a loose end, an unresolved conflict. An astute reader—or in this case, viewer—will get to the end of the book and wonder about all those loose ends.
In writing, every word, every event, every character—even nameless farm animals—must somehow move the story forward. In this scene, are the animals necessary? They give Belle an audience for her lyrical ranting, but other than that, they serve no purpose—and they create a loose end.
We tend to add things to scenes to dress them up. Things that, at the time, make sense. However, we need to be careful we’re not accidentally adding a subplot that we have no intention of coming back to. When everything is said and done, and our precious paper-baby is all ready to go out into the world, we need to re-read every scene and make sure that everything in it serves a purpose and every conflict introduced is resolved.
Did you write a spy novel in which your character had to steal top-secret files for the CIA, then was chased all over the world before he finally realized he wanted nothing more than a quiet family life with the Arabian beauty who helped him allude the Russians out to kill him? Great! I’d love to read it. But one question: what happened to the files? Did he ever turn them in to his supervisor?
Did you open your paranormal romance with a girl walking home from a birthday celebration at a nightclub with her best friends before she was attacked by vampires? Again, I’d love to read it. But what about the best friends? Do they ever call her? Stop by her place to make sure she’s okay? Call the police when a week passes and no one has seen hide nor hair of her? If they don’t do any of those things, 1.) they are poor excuses for best friends, and 2.) they are a loose end.
If you’re feeling tangled up in loose ends, an editor is a wonderful ally to help you get untangled and tie your loose ends in perfect little bows.
Beauty and the Beast is an original Disney film. All characters from the movie belong to Disney. The image used was taken from Google Images.