The Difficulty of Being Difficult

People seemed to like our regrets, so here we are: a fiesta of difficult and rewarding writing.

I asked some of my homies which scenes were hardest to write, and which were the most fun. Let’s see where it landed up.

Yudhanjaya Wijeratne

I think the most fun scene I’ve ever written was the opening of (an unreleased) manuscript, where the angel Michael invents a new programming language and lobbies for it to be used in Creating planets. It’s either that or the entirety of the Slow Sad Suicide of Rohan Wijeratne, where an alcoholic from Sri Lanka signs up to fly into a ring singularity – basically torus-shaped black hole with nothing at the core. That was so fun the entire story just came out in one writing session.

The hardest was writing the middle sections of Numbercaste. Mapping out the economic implications of a 2030 where everyone’s net worth to society is quantified. It was laborious work, interwoven with so much research, and I rewrote that middle so many times I despaired of ever finishing that book.

Rebekah Haskell

Rebekah’s note on my admission, below: Richard, your dialogue is fantastic. Knowing that you occasionally struggle with it is a comfort to us all.

Editor’s Note: Thanks, I’ll just drink myself to death over here.

My most fun scene and my hardest scene were both written from the POV of my designated Headmaster of Smartassery, who also happens to be basically my authorial insert character. He’s effortless for me to write, and I laugh the whole way through. Every scene with him was The Most Fun…

… until I killed another character very close to him, and suddenly there were no jokes to be made, and I had to figure out how to write him from a completely different place. I’d done all the groundwork for his character, so it wasn’t that he didn’t have the depth… it was that he is basically me, and in order to get the right feelings on the page, I had to do some straight-up Method crap. It was really damn hard, and it’s one of the scenes I’m probably the most proud of.

Kim Faulks

Oh, my favorite scene lately was chapter one of Oleander (Ed’s note: not out yet!), it’s quite dark and violent and the scene is from a nine year old girl. I had so much fun writing this. This one’s not out yet, but should be around October.

The hardest would have to be a scene from my Dragon books, Sagittarius. Cassie can attest to the fact I re-wrote that about six or seven times, and still had to come back and re-work it. I cried, I screamed. I gave up writing in one heartbeat and then came back to it the next. No one else saw a problem but me and there’s no way I can move on, unless I’m happy with it.

Marilyn Peake

Marilyn’s note, possibly sharing this editor’s imposter syndrome: Wow, those scenes sound impressive. Here are mine…


The scene that was the most fun for me to write is in Shade, the first novel in my YA Paranormal Mystery series. The main character, Shade, moves with her chaotic mother into an old Victorian house. She’s not happy about the move, especially since she had to leave her friends and has to start a new school. It turns out that her attic room is haunted by a ghost. This ghost died in the 1970s. My most fun scene to write was when he discovers cell phones and the cell phone game, Angry Birds, and starts driving Shade crazy with the constant squawking birds and squealing piggies.

I’ve also had a great deal of fun writing dialect for some of my characters, something I once thought I’d never be able to do. Writing dialect for certain characters in MUTATION Z: PROTECTING OUR OWN, Book #3 in my MUTATION Z series, came naturally. After that, I researched Cajun dialect for some characters in SHADE AND THE DEN OF LOST SOULS, a short story in my SHADE series that’s currently published in the Fantasy Bridge anthology, MODERN MAGIC.


The hardest scene for me to write is in MUTATION Z: PROTECTING OUR OWN, Book #3 in my MUTATION Z series. It’s a scene in which an abusive guy shoots his little girl who appears to have the Zombie disease before she bites her brother, despite the mother’s hope that a cure will save her daughter. The scene, as well as the mother’s emotional devastation was extremely hard to write.

Jeff Haskell

The most fun I’ve had writing a scene is probably the climax of Unstoppable Arsenal when she faces down the antagonist, who by all accounts cannot be beaten. Long story short, if he dies, he body hops to the nearest person (think Azazel). However, Amelia has developed a counter-measure for herself so he can’t become her, though he tries. When he does his usual rant where he says she can’t win, that no matter what, he will win because he can’t die.

She holds a stun gun on him and says, “I don’t believe in the ‘no-win’ scenario.”

Right before she stuns his but and sends his space station on a collision course for the sun. It was a lot of fun to write and to read peoples reactions.

As for the hardest scene… nothing really stands out. But the hardest thing I’ve ever written is a convincing woman who isn’t defined by her sexuality or traits she has in common with men (i.e. she doesn’t drink like a fish, sleep around, or punch people).

Editor’s Note: Writing women as women – wonders will never cease

Amy Duboff

Most fun scene: When my hapless main character gets to save the day in Troubled Space in truly ridiculous fashion. There are plenty of others that were a ton of fun to write, but I loved how with that one my process was “What’s the silliest way this fight could go?” and I was able to do that. He’s been hinting at random purchases he’s made all book, so when he gets to finally bust out the hidden features of his custom jacket–complete with confetti canon and a sound system–it’s pretty fantastic.

Most difficult scene was definitely when I had to kill off a beloved main character in Volume 5 of my Cadicle series. I don’t recall drinking a ton of booze at the time, but it was rough. I still think it’s one of my best pieces of writing.

Lyra Shanti

Hmm… Most fun scene… like, ever? That’s hard. I’m going to go with my first novel in my sci-fi series, Shiva XIV. There’s a scene where my main character (Ayn) has just lost everything: his home, his family, his identity, even the clothes he usually wears – just everything. And he’s not used to this new planet he’s on. So, he’s pretty freaked out. Plus, he’s only 14. Anyway, out of nowhere, he sees a small cat-bird creature who seems caught in a cage. Ayn goes over to see if he can help the cat, but this is what happens:

“Save me!”
Ayn stopped dead in his tracks, then looked around. He had heard a voice speaking directly into his mind!

“Please! Save me!” begged the mysterious, childlike voice yet again.

Ayn looked ahead at Zin who was casually walking without any notice or care about the strange voice.

Ayn gulped and begrudgingly decided to answer back in his mind. “Um… who are you and how may I save you?”

“Well,” purred the voice in his mind, “I suppose you could answer me a riddle.”

“A riddle?” Ayn silently replied.
“Yes,” said the voice, “a riddle!”
“I’m sorry,” said Ayn, “but I’m not very good at riddles.”

“Oh, well,” the voice said, disappointed, “I guess I’ll just be trapped here forever.”

Ayn looked around to see where the voice was coming from, but all he could see were street vendors and random passersby.
“I’m over here!” cried the voice in his mind.

Ayn began following the voice, using only his gut feelings. After a few moments of concentration, he could vaguely make out the shape of the white and gold cat creature he had seen before, and it was indeed trapped.

The poor cat-like animal was caged inside of a wooden box that was sitting on the back of a metallic, plasma-powered vehicle. How the creature managed to get inside the box was a mystery to Ayn, but he was trapped there nonetheless.
The vehicle was parked on the side of the street without a driver in sight. Ayn wasn’t sure if he should be getting involved, but at the same time, he wondered how often a person is psychically asked for help by a cat.

Ayn looked around to see if anyone was watching him. When he believed he wasn’t noticed, Ayn dropped his bag and ran over to the creature. Bending over and gazing directly at the animal, Ayn could see it more clearly.

The creature wasn’t really a cat, though it shared similarities, such as its ears, paws, and tail. However, upon closer inspection, Ayn could see that the mysterious animal also had tiny talons on its feet, as well as small wings that were chained together with a plasma-powered lock. Ayn looked into its nearly human-looking eyes and felt sorry for the poor cat-bird creature.

“Don’t just gawk at me!” said the strange animal. “Get me out of here!”

The cat goes on to become Ayn’s best friend, though he’s invisible to everyone else, which makes Ayn worry he’s going insane. Loved writing it.

As for hardest? Geez, anytime politics were involved! There is a culture on another planet in Shiva XIV that is similar to ancient Rome. I couldn’t stand having to deal with their friggin politics. Lol.

Mary Paddock

Mary’s note, after returning hungover from a weekend away: You ask the best questions, Richard.

I have a lot of favorite scenes. But I think the one I’m proudest of and the one that was the MOST FUN was my first “shoot out.” If you knew me, you’d find this fairly ironic as I don’t like guns much and I think I was in high school the last time I handled one.

It’s from Speak, (FINALLY) coming out around Christmas. I tell people it’s chick-lit meets scifi. A young woman finds a stray dog in a parking lot. The dog has an unusual gift. All of the wrong people want to capitalize on it.

The shootout is the result of an attempted kidnapping gone wrong. I had to draw on the expertise of my husband (former Marine) and my sons, who–despite never having owned even a toy gun–were gifted at working out action scenes involving shootouts. Folks, if you’re struggling with an action scene and you don’t have any boys at your house, just borrow some and ask them how they’d go about dispatching bad guys. They’ve already planned this. Trust me.

My hardest one? The primary murder scene in Bright, trying to get the language right, trying to make it immediate and powerful without overdoing it. Do you know how hard it is to write a death scene without being maudlin? Then there were the moments afterward when the character dealt with her first hours as a ghost. It is extremely difficult to write ghosts without falling into all of the cliches and I was hellbound and determined not to do so. Once I established the confines of her post-corporeal existence it got a little easier. But that entire chapter was (to quote my mother) like pulling hen’s teeth. There’s no authority in the field you can turn to. No real rules, but there are a million traps to avoid. I don’t know how many times I deleted those scenes before I was satisfied.

As for how much booze I drank during those rewrites? We’ve all agreed to pretend those days didn’t happen.

Amanda Dick

Amanda says: Another great thread ☺ Not sure I am qualified for this one but I’ll give it a shot.

Most fun:
The fight scene in Absolution. It was my first novel and I was having a lot of fun! The protagonist was in a cage fight, set in an abandoned warehouse on the city fringe. He just found out his estranged father had died and he was being paid to take a dive… but didn’t. There’s sweat, tears, a crowd baying for blood and an escape out a smashed window into a back alley and his car. Good times ☺

Hardest scene:
From The Trouble with Paper Planes. The female protagonist realises she must leave the man and family she fought her way back to be with – forever this time. There were a lot of moving parts in this scene. I rewrote it a thousand times. I still get both hate mail and fan mail about it so it was worth it to get that reaction .

Richard Parry

Here I am, leading from the front again.


Most fun scene was a recent space battle in Tyche’s Angels. I finally broke the back of epic wars in space (not my strong suit, you’d think I’d stay away from space opera but I’m really not very bright). I have a huge number of enemy ships jumping in from out there somewhere. The allies are hopelessly outnumbered. Everyone’s like OMG WE’RE DOOMED, and then I pull in a bunch of ships taking refuge in a debris cloud.

They pop out, wreckage of other ships falling away, particle cannons and railguns hammering, and it’s a beautiful moment (for everyone except the bad guys, who experience existential doubt).

Readers believe all those ships destroyed TWO BOOKS BACK, so not only are people getting the epic space combat, but there’s a lot of fist-pumping and high-firing.

I wrote this with The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on repeat:


People say my dialogue is one of the best things I write, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

In my first novel, Night’s Favor, I wrote a scene where a character is in a forest, following a criminally insane Russian and a PMC commander. He then takes a call on a phone, so he’s got two people on speaker and two people in the woods with him.

Try writing that scene without using “said” or “say” a lot. Go on. I dare you. I double dare you.

Good news is, after writing that I can write just about any amount of dialogue, although people on the end of non-visual devices (phones, uplinks, starfleet comms…) is still tricky because I really want a hair-flick or two to break up the monotony.

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