Episodic writing is inserting a scene that serves no other purpose than to add word count to a story. Remember, each scene should pull the reader further into the story–should make the reader loathe to put down the book. That means that each scene should either reveal something about our POV character or should take the plot/conflict to the next level. If it does neither of these, the scene should be rewritten or cut completely.Let’s take a look at an example.
The doorbell rang and Sarah rushed to the door. She opened it to find the pizza delivery boy on the doorstep. “Hi,” she said.
“Hi,” he replied. He looked down at the box. “That will be twelve dollars, please.”
Sarah, turned to get her purse from the table by the door. She pulled out her wallet and found a ten and two ones. Handing them to the delivery boy she said, “Thanks.”
He handed her the pizza box and turned and walked to his car.
You’ll notice, as a reader, you are not engaged by this exchange. Who cares about a pizza getting delivered? What does it have to do with the story? How does it advance the plot? What does it tell us about the characters? … the answer to those questions is No one and Nothing. This is a meaningless exchange. Filler.
But let’s look at it fleshed out a little:
The doorbell rang and Sarah rushed to the door. Hope guided her feet. Maybe Kyle really would come back. She opened the door and a pizza delivery boy held up a box. “Hi,” he said.
“Hi.” The simple word choked her–or maybe it was the tears she swallowed. She should have known better than to think Kyle would come running back to her. Why would he? She didn’t deserve forgiveness.
The pizza kid looked down at the box. “That will be twelve dollars, please.”
Sarah stared at the box. Why had she ordered this pizza? She wasn’t hungry. Would probably never be hungry again. Kyle had taken her heart and her stomach–for food and for life.
Oh, who was she kidding? This wasn’t Kyle’s fault. It was hers. She’d lied to him, not the other way around.
She glanced up and then turned to get her purse from the table by the door. Hungry or not, she’d eat this pizza, wallow in self-pity, and maybe it would make her feel better. She handed the money to the delivery boy. “Thanks.”
He handed her the pizza box and walked to his car.
In this second example, there’s still not a lot going on. It’s still a scene about a pizza being delivered. But, we do learn something. We discover something about the character (her sorrow, her remorse, her tendency to wallow in self-pity) and we discover something about the conflict (she lied.) There is a purpose for the scene. Once we can clearly see the purpose for the scene, the next step is to “activate” as much as possible and to produce a deeper point-of-view…but that’s another lesson, entirely.