Scenes and Structure
Beginning writers often tend to think of a book as a series of chapters. It's actually more useful to regard it as a series of linked scenes. Why? Because it makes it a lot easier to control the pace of your story.
'Pace' may be described as the forward movement of your story. Sometimes it will move at a slower pace than at other times. What you need to aim for is a story that moves along fast enough to maintain reader interest, but not at such breakneck speed that the reader doesn't have time to get to know the characters or assimilate the plot. Nor do you want your story to slow down too much. That can lead to your reader closing the book. (If that reader happens to be the editor to whom you hope to sell the story, you're in big trouble.)
Scenes that contain a lot of action or conflict tend to elevate the reader's blood pressure. They have her whipping through the pages, anxious to absorb every moment of the drama being played out. A novel full of such scenes:
A book that moves at too rapid a pace is like a movie packed with one action scene after another-it's all too much. To appreciate and enjoy the conflict when it happens (in a nail-biting kind of way) we need periods of calm between the storms. These alternating scenarios can be regarded as scenes and their sequels.
The scene involves the main characters in action and/or conflict. It usually contains dialogue. Picture it as a scene from a movie - lights, camera, ACTION!
Following such a scene, you give your reader a chance to breathe, by moving into the sequel. The sequel is the logical aftermath of the scene. In the sequel, the viewpoint character has time to think about what has just happened, what it means to him/her, and what he/she intends to do next. By planning your novel as a series of scenes and sequels, you can control the pace.
Want to slow things down? Expand the sequel, the 'calm' period, which gives the character (and the reader) 'time out'.
Want to speed things up? Shorten the sequel. For example:
'By the time Marianne reached her apartment, she was good and mad. There was no way she intended to let Jake Rockford get away with a pathetic story like that! Five minutes after walking through her front door, she was dialling the Rockford's number. Within half an hour, she was pulling up in her sister's driveway, ready to do battle.'In just a few lines, you have pitchforked the reader into the next action-packed scene. We know that Marianne doesn't believe Jake's story. We know she's eager to confront Julie and/or Jake. And we haven't wasted any time getting her there: one scene leads very quickly into the next, thus keeping the story moving along at a smart clip.
Learn to use scene and sequel effectively, and you retain control over the pacing of your novel. At all times the paramount question in your mind should be: How will this scene advance the story? If the answer is 'I don't know' or 'It won't, really' - then out it goes, no matter how well-written it is.
The Structure Of A Scene
The viewpoint character in each scene should have a goal.Why? So you don't include scenes that go nowhere and achieve nothing. Scenes that bog your story down.
hese are the things you should take into consideration when planning a scene:
1. What is the viewpoint character's goal?
- What does he want at the outset of the scene?
- How will the action in the scene help him to get what he wants?
- Is the scene goal relevant to the viewpoint character's main goals in life? (Either work or private)
- Will the reader worry about whether the viewpoint character will get what he wants?
- What complications will arise to prevent your character from achieving her goal(s)?
- How will your character try to overcome these problems?
- Will the readers worry about whether the character will achieve her goal(s)?
- Is the viewpoint character better off or worse off at the end of the scene?
- If he is better off, have you introduced (or foreshadowed) a new plot twist to maintain tension? (Never make things too easy for your main character.)
- Has the scene moved the story forward?
- Has the scene left the reader wanting to know what will happen next?
- Have you answered the question you set up in the reader's mind at the beginning of the scene? (For example: will Character get what he wants? How will he go about getting what he wants?)
- Have you had the character think about what has just happened?
- Have you had the character decide what to do next to pursue her goal?
- Have you had the character take action or make a decision that moves us into the next scene?
(c) Copyright Marg McAlister
Marg McAlister has published magazine articles, short stories, books for children, ezines, promotional material, sales letters and web content. She has written 5 distance education courses on writing, and her online help for writers is popular all over the world. Sign up for her regular writers' tipsheet at http://www.writing4success.com/
Before You Write Your Book, Organize Its Parts - Part 2
If you are a serious writer who wants to publish and sell books and informational products, you need to be able to find all of its parts in a minute or less. Filing only the important parts of your book will yield fast-writing your book.
Writing For Free: When & When Not to Do It!
Right off the bat, I want to say that there is no right or wrong answer to this topic. A lot depends on your end goal - to get a job, garner publicity, build a portfolio, etc.
A Single Technique
Writing is hard work, and like all hard work, one tries to avoid it if possible. Yet writers feel the urge to write, the need to write, and the inspiration to write, but these are not what produces.
Using Technology to Improve Your Final Draft
One Saturday afternoon, I sat in a packed conference room with about 150 other would be writers, listening to a conference instructor tell us the keys to self-editing our manuscripts. The number of people in the room spoke to how important it is to make sure your work is crisp, and as close to publishable as possible.
Is Someone Plagiarizing Your Work?
About two weeks ago I received an article submissionthat immediately attracted my attention. The title wasidentical to the title of an article I wrote and whichwas published in 'WebProNews' in May 1999.
Conflict - How To Keep Your Readers Turning Pages
Some writers are just too kind.They hate to put their characters under any kind of pressure.
8 Ways to Write a Winner Book Fast!
Have you given up on getting your book out of your heart intothe hands of your readers? Don't give up. There's an easy way todo anything and a more difficult way.
EditingExpect, allow, and accept that every first draft will represent your lowest standard and have at it.A first draft is just that, a draft with its lack of organization, lack of cogent thought, poor syntax, grammatical errors, typos and spelling slip-ups, and other inaccuracies.
Suspense Novels Made Easy
Suspense novels are probably the easiest novels to write. Suspense novels require a simple formula, which will make your work truly suspenseful.
Suspense Novels Need Fast Starts
Suspense novels, unlike any other genre, need fast starts. Fans of suspense novels or their close relatives, thrillers, detective stories and mysteries, expect a fast-paced read.
Discover the Magic of the Most Beautiful Words in the English Language
'Summer afternoon - summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.' Henry James.
Screenwriting - The Value of Structure
Structure in the form of frameworks, work processes and goals enhances creative output:a) Short term goals (incremental productivity) produce more output than a "do your best" approach. Writing four pages a day completes a words-on-paper first draft screenplay in one month.
Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 3 of 6
ELICIT, ILLICITElicit means to extract or draw out; illicit means not legal.EVERYONE, EVERY ONEEveryone means every person in a group; every one means each person and is always followed by "of".
Money Trails for Writers
I'm willing to bet that quite a number of you once had to debate (or discuss) the saying: "The pen is mightier than the sword." If you were arguing 'for', you would have been able to come up with many examples of how words triumphed over muscles.
Writing Styles for Fiction: Which Voice to Use
I recently set up a website to promote a new suspense novel. Once it started receiving hits I began getting questions about why I chose to write in third person.
How To Identify Your Own Style Of Writing
This article is to help identify which style, technique or strategy of writing that one may use. I will also help to understand the method in the way a writer writes and help in determinining which aproach may suite your needs.
Pairs/Groups Of Words Often Confused - Part 2 of 6
BAITED, BATEDBaited usually refers to traps or snares. When the reference is to someone who is hardly daring to breathe, the correct word is always bated:"She watched with bated breath.
Making Better Word Choices - 4 Examples
Choosing the wrong words can have a poor effect on your writing and on you. Whether you are writing a cover letter for a job, a business proposal, or an application essay for graduate school, using words poorly can result in negative feedback.
New Year Resolutions for Writers - The Best Kind to Make and How to Keep Them
On the first day of a bright and shiny new year, stretching out ahead of us full of possibilities, it's so easy to feel a sense of determination. ("This year I'm DOING it! I'm going to write a book / lose weight / take more time for myself.
Get Creative In The Great Outdoors
Summer's here and the time is write for dancing in the streets..