Most of you are probably wondering what the heck I’m talking about. Let me explain: an “olive” in a novel isn’t what you think. I don’t mean characters can’t enjoy olives in their drinks or even as snacks. If your protagonist does, more power to her!

What I’m actually referring to is not at all food-related. An “olive” in writing is a scene that, when you first think of it, seems perfect. It floods out of you and you can’t help but pat yourself on the back for its originality or cleverness or any other adjective you can think of that translates into “I’m awesome.” But after you let it settle for a bit – or let a trusted writing friend read it and offer feedback – you realize that the scene itself, though entertaining standing alone, doesn’t exactly fit into your narrative. More specifically, the scene doesn’t help move your plot along, develop your characters, or anything else that’s pretty much mandatory.

I first heard this term last summer from the head of my program. At the time I appreciated it, but I hadn’t actually noticed it in my own writing. Not that I haven’t cut scenes before that weren’t up to par. But I hadn’t gone back and found a scene I’d previously LOVED and realized it was like an olive on an icecream cone. It just didn’t belong. Last week, though, my first olive appeared in glowing lights. This particular closing sceneone of my favorites for a certain character – didn’t actually fit. Though entertaining, I realized it served no purpose. I have to admit I’m sad to see it go, but I think as a writer, this is something else I’ll have to learn to get over.

But just this once – scene, you know who you are – here’s the Spice Girls to send you off properly. RIP.

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