"Gratuitous" means "unnecessary, without cause, unwarranted," and there are many ways to achieve gratuitousness. Any aspect of a piece of writing is gratuitous if it doesn't do the work it should.
I recently wrote a draft of a play with situations and language that those who heard a reading of it judged gratuitous, and their reasons were sound. I had not convinced them of the point, use, function of those situations and my use of language in the service of the work. Among other insights I gained from the experience was an idea that, while it likely isn't original, has novelty and may help me in my continuing development of the play.
I have decided to write a synopsis of the play to clarify the story I am attempting to tell. Writing a synopsis should help a great deal in sloughing off any gratuitous elements. I intend then to build out from the synopsis and basically re-write the play.
Reduced to even simpler terms, I suppose I will be outlining the play's plot.
Let me know if you've had any comparable experience in your own work.