Back in the long ago, my mate Krys and I worked on a story together.* There were many chapters and iterations of said story**; it was probably the first time I really worked at writing, and consciously tried to make mine better. It helped define a lot of my style and habits in story-telling.
One of things that’s lasted the longest is the idea of the cut scene. They used to be little pieces and scenes that, for whatever reason, weren’t in the actual story. Some of them were things that hadn’t happened yet that one of us got a really amazing omg idea for that had to be written before it disappeared into the ether. Others were real cut scenes—things that had happened, but that for some reason had been left on the cutting room floor. Usually because, interesting though it might have been, it didn’t relate to the plot. Those scenes helped define relationships between characters, or make individual characters more well-rounded by giving them a backstory or a hobby or a favourite drink. Little shit, mostly. They were written entirely for fun, and for the most part they were never really intended to be a part of the larger story. Special feature stuff, maybe. Or appendices. It might make it into a revised and extended version, but even then, probably not.
But those were some of the best scenes, and some of the most interesting to write. And they also made the regular plot writing much easier. We already had a huge body of work to draw on to flesh out voices, relationships, emotional baggage, and all the other fun stuff that makes a character a person. Sometimes lines or partial scenes would work their way in, and that only made it better.
So when I started The New Novel, before I started the actual writing, I did a bunch of cut scenes. Mostly of the characters as children, because a few of them have known each other for a long time, and I wanted to build in that sense of history. But others are just…bits. The first time someone met their future husband. The aftermath of a risky yet profitable adventure. The first time someone killed. Important stuff to them, but not necessarily to the story.
All in all, it’s probably about ten to fifteen thousand words of cut scenes. Maybe more; I can’t be arsed to add them all up right now. This stuff will probably never make it into the story proper, but it’s great to have around. It makes the characters more real, and gives their history together a weight that I would have found hard to write otherwise.
And writing more of those is a great distraction from actually working on the novel. It’s kind of the same, right?
*Actually, we still work on this story together. But it’s more of a hobby now. Not that that stops it from eating huge swathes of our time.
**Many, many iterations.