When you’re focusing on tightening up a story, things might not look simple. In first drafts, I tend to write comedic interludes as filler scenes between stages of a journey or a project. The journey needs time in order to finish, so why not fill that time with something?
Great reasoning, Sherlock, but you’re going about it the wrong way.
When I go back to edit, then, I try to delete all such filler scenes to tighten up the plot and keep the pace high. I just highlight that conversation about caterpillars and delete it. In order to keep the narrative flowing, I might modify the sentences before and after the filler scene so it reads well. Unfortunately, that means a four-hour wait goes something like this:
They waited four hours, but no one showed up. Disheartened, they left.
Does the reader feel the wait? No. Do you feel the wait? No. Both of you know the wait was there, but it doesn’t really seem real. That’s one example of telling instead of showing.
So how to fix that? You could describe the wait in “real time”, make the narrative as boring as the wait is– but that’s just going to drop your audience. You need something in there to show that this was a long wait without making it boring.
Thus, I write comedic filler scenes about caterpillars. I write a conversation that means absolutely nothing to the story; it just exists. It might have the purpose of filling an empty section, but other than that, it’s useless.
It should be fairly obvious by now what must be done. Instead of filling that space with irrelevant content, fill it with (gasp!) relevant content!
Instead of telling knock-knock jokes, have a meaningful conversation with your sidekick. Instead of pulling up grass for four hours (which is still handy as a way to show how bored they are even in the midst of an interesting conversation), have them train with swords, practice with magic, or compare notes from their history class. Multitasking works just as well in fiction as it does in reality.
There’s something called the scene-sequel format that I may have mentioned before. It basically means you structure your story in pairs of scenes– one is an action scene, one is a sequel to that in which they figure out what happened in the action. It works as contrast between action and rest.
However, you always want at least one scene for every sequel. You never want a scene-sequel-sequel. One sequel per scene. You can have a scene-scene-sequel, but even that is pushing it. You want a balance between action and inaction.
If you try to have a waiting scene, then a conversation scene, you’re putting two sequels in a row where they shouldn’t be. Instead of that, put the two together and have one superpowered sequel between two action scenes.
The point is, waiting scenes are good– you want to show the time spent waiting for something to happen. However, you never want to make the wait boring, nor do you want to make the wait irrelevant. You want to make the wait seem just as important as the thing you’re waiting for. Multitask.