I had submitted this potential scene to my coach:

What I knew (about my scene): after my protagonist’s best friend, Devon (10 years old), spends some time away, they will be reunited. But now Devon will return with new thoughts about what they previously considered playing He will now see his friend as immature and babyish.

So I knew Devon had learned something in his time with the neighbor girl that has recontextualized what playing means. And I began to search for that event. What exactly did Devon learn with Lucy, the neighbor girl, that will change the way he sees his friend Josh?

My thought was: Lucy’s little brother was playing exuberantly, the same way Josh does with Devon — just letting go, letting himself be himself, to scream, to act out, and to wiggle his limbs around. As they were playing, Devon hears a boy playfully yelling and screaming in the backyard. He thought it sounded like Josh. When Lucy noticed Devon distracted, she walks over to the side fence and shouts, “Brendon, settle down you freak.” She comes back and they start playing. Moments later, Brendon begins making airplane sounds and shouting. Lucy apologizes for her baby brother and his ADHD behavior. He still hasn’t grown out of it.

This was a good result. But I stopped there. My coach saw this as an opportunity to go deeper, by asking more questions: Why did Lucy feel the need to shout at her brother? What is she afraid of Devon thinking? Maybe her little brother was trying to play with them, like he normally does with Lucy, but now that there’s a boy around, Lucy can’t play. She believes if she does play with him, Devon will think she’s childish or less of her in some way. So, Lucy is left with one option to feel safe: to lash out at her brother and distance herself from that type of play.

My coach asked why, why, why, for every character until she understands them as human. How are they protecting themselves and how does that behavior carry throughout their life. That’s when you find details that last, and even start to change your scene writing EVEN THOUGH LUCY ISNT IN THE SCENE. The layers of complexity show up on the page.