And there is nothing but the sound of crickets chirping in your brain.
This past week, I've been combing my book with why's and wherefore's. Pretty much at every scene, I'm asking the characters, "Why are you here?" And it's been illuminating, mostly because of how often I had absolutely no idea, or the answer is a muddled "garr."
Maybe in real life people do things randomly, but in novels, I don't believe they ever should. Random action is the enemy of a tight story or a good plot. So with every scene, there has to a defensible reason why every character is present and why they're doing what they're doing.
The cool thing, though, is the more I stress test the story, the deeper I go. With every round of questioning, I find myself building it out a little further, and the themes become clearer, the characters become clearer. But it does make for slightly slower going than I'm used to ...