Revision has always been THE hands down hardest part of writing for me.
However, I recently discovered a new method of revision that I’ve been experimenting with that I call the “TIMES TWO TIMES TEN METHOD.” It’s still just something I’m trying out, so I can’t give it my full recommendation yet. But so far, it’s had good results. If nothing else, think of it as a good creative exercise.
Here’s the problem I face often with revision:
Let’s say I’m writing this scene: Sally tries to convince Bob to come to the dance with her. Sally is a little too desperate and Bob doesn’t want anything to do with her.
I write a conversation between the two of them. It’s an accurate depiction of a sorta-desperate girl asking a guy to the dance and him refusing. It’s not badly written. It has some decent dialogue. It gets the point of the scene across. It gets job done.
Now come revisions. I KNOW this scene can be better. I know it can pack more of a punch. I know it’s missing something to really make the characters POP. But I have NO idea HOW to get it there. Making a scene just generally more powerful is way too vague. So how do you do it?
The “2x,10x” Method
Take any element of this scene. Let’s say Sally asking Bob. Asking. What’s “asking” multiplied by two? By that I mean, what’s a form of asking that is twice as strong?
I can change the scene so that she’s not just being stubborn in asking but she’s actually BEGGING him to go, breaking down and being downright embarrassing about it.
Okay: Begging. That’s asking times two. That would undoubtedly make the scene more powerful.
So if that’s “asking” times two, what is “asking” times TEN?
Taken to the “10x” level, it might not just be conversation anymore. She’s DESPERATE, maybe even UNSTABLE. Perhaps she grabs him. Maybe she latches onto his leg and won’t let go. He freaks out, tries to kick his shoe off and is distracted by her pleading sobs. And even when he manages to get away, she chases after him and he trying to lose her.
Now THAT’s a scene that packs a punch!
Now, I TOTALLY get that this is going to be too much in many cases.
This method can morph the scenes and characters just WAY way beyond what fits in your story. This was just an example to show the method.
The point of the method is to allow yourself to see the FULL RANGE of possibilities. The “Times Two” part breaks the characteristic vagueness of “make it better.” The “Times Ten” FORCES you to imagine the scene in a new and powerful way.
So where are some good situations to use this method?
I think this works great with setting up characters.
Let’s say I have a character who’s supposed to be fun and silly.
I can show him in a casual situation joking around with the other characters. But that’s fairly standard. What would REALLY sell it?
Well, what’s “fun and silly” times two?
Maybe it’s a not a casual situation. Maybe it’s a serious situation, but he’s still just joking around and being silly.
Okay, what’s “fun and silly” times ten?
Playing with toy dinosaurs, by himself, when he’s supposed to be doing his job:
Another great place for this method is for scenes that are about contrast: “taking a stand” scenes, “enough is enough” scenes, or “I’m different than that” scenes.
Say you’re writing a scene of a female warrior who is hiding her identity to reveal it dramatically later.
You could make her hidden identity just a quiet, average girl.
You could take it to “2x” by maybe making her overly innocent or cowardly.
OR you could take it to 10x, like the Hattori Hanzo scene from Kill Bill Vol 1:
Quentin Tarantino is a MASTER of this technique. What’s so great about his characterization is that he takes everything WAAY beyond where you thought it would go.
In Django Unchained, Dr. Kingschultz is SOOO polite and methodical that with painstaking courtesy he requests a bill of sale from a dying slave trader that HE just shot and whose slaves he just “stole” (even though, as per his character, he gave the dying man full payment anyway for no apparent reason).
In Kill Bill Vol 2, Pai Mei is WAAAAAAY stereotypical as a Chinese martial arts master.
In Inglourious Basterds, in the “pretending to be Italian” scene, Aldo’s Italian is SOOOO overly horrible.
Not to mention all the blood…
Anime is shows some GREAT ways to use this method.
In One Piece, Oda Eiichiro introduces us to a character who is purported to be the Greatest Swordsman in the World! Does Oda show him easily beating another master swordsman? Nope.
Does Oda take it to 2x and show him easily beating another master swordsman with a pocket knife? He sure does.
Does Oda ALSO take it to 5x and show him effortlessly deflecting bullets? Yes, that too!
Does Oda ALSO take it to 10x and show him effortlessly slicing an entire ship in half? ALSO YES!
This method will leave your scenes looking MUCH different than you imagined them. Chances are, that’s a GOOD thing. This method FORCES you to think outside the box and try things that may SEEM out of the question until you realize how hilariously DEAD ON they are (or devastatingly dead on if it’s a darker element). It makes your story POP and gives it an originality that, at least for me, is usually lacking in a first draft.
Even if you don’t take things the full 10x, it opens you up to the scope of possibilities you may have missed. And you’re free to step up the intensity to a level you’re comfortable with.
I usually end posts with something funny related to the subject matter. I could make use of a classically funny reference like “These go to 11” or “It’s over 9000!” But let step this ending up “2x;10x” style with probably the most hilarious “10x” joke I’ve ever witnessed: