HOW TO WRITE EFFECTIVE SCENES
I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday. I certainly did. Sometimes doing nothing is the epitome of relaxation. Now back to business.
Writing a novel can be overwhelming….
Wait. Writing a novel is overwhelming. Something about the feeling of making each page count puts a lot of pressure on the writer. All forms of art are difficult. But writing fiction is probably the most engaging art form since we have to create something that is going to entice the reader to give up at least eight hours of his life to commit it to our story. This doesn’t down any other forms of art, and it can certainly be argued that music is life, and interior design determines a person’s mood, paintings are timeless. That’s all true. I just want to highlight the importance of fiction writing in this case so that we understand the challenge that we are up against.
So what do we do? We need to be able to have that page turning experience while at the same time giving the reader the desired plot that’s necessary. There are a few questions that we must ask ourselves whenever we are writing a scene.
What is the purpose of this scene? A scene must have a purpose just like your book must have a purpose. In fact, if I wanted to make it a one-liner, I’d say: “Scenes. The stuff plots are made of.” And it’s so true. When your character knows that his wife is being held hostage in the twenty-three floor building, we need to know that in this scene, we are going to experience the conflict of the protag as he progress up the endless flights of stairs.
Breaking a scene into these small chunks will allow your reader to be able to swallow the tough red meat of your story.
We’re going to take this week and break down some scene-ology. (I’m 100% sure that’s not a word). But my hope is to help writers to see the purpose of the step-by-step of writing.
Let’s look at an example. A man wants to rescue his wife from the twenty-something story building.
1. What are his thoughts? Does he love his wife? This question seems obvious, but what if the obvious answer is not true? Suppose he wants to rescue her because she holds the key to the mystery that he’s trying to solve. So in this thriller, we could have a husband who hates his wife, but now he is forced to rescue her even though he has no other reason than the selfish one. Nowwwwwww we have some conflict!
2. What happens if he doesn’t rescue her? This is very very very very very very very…very very important. The reader needs to feel the sense of loss in your scenes — the feeling of, “OMG what if this doesn’t work out.” If there are no consequences, then there is no conflict. Say for instance that if he can’t rescue her, then the world continues on just as it had before. Now, her life doesn’t mean too much.
This is when it doesn’t matter to kill off a character because the reader doesn’t care, and apparently, neither does the author. This is bad bad bad writing. The reader needs to feel the same sense of consequence that your protag feels. If we have a connection, the journey to rescue the wife has a greater intensity to it.
3. The contrary to the previous seems intuitive, but a lot of scenes miss this very key aspect. What if he does rescue her? Now how does the story change? The reader also needs to feel the sense of triumph with your character’s achievements. If the world continues as usual, then once again, the scene is useless.
We will be exploring some “scenery” situations for the duration of the week.
hmm, interesting share, thanks 🙂
very well written
I tend to leave my writing for the day, when I’ve finished on a “page turner” or cliff hanger – that way I want to know what happens next, never mind the reader – and it becomes so much easier to carry on writing the following day. Thanks for your insightful blog, once again.
Thanks Maria. I appreciate your reply. I used to wonder why it was so hard for me to write after a “thriller” scene. And it’s probably because I need to take a break. It’s like: “Whew! Now what?”
I’ve personally found that breaking an entire plot into blocks and pieces is indeed very helpful. It’s a lot like building a scale model of some kind, where you have to know the order of the parts, the right color and the right finish.
In fact, if you plan your novel outlines like these, you can have a rough idea of what will happen in each of your novel’s chapters.
Joe, you are right about that. I wrote one novel that I did not plan, and I paid for it by countless revisions. Another novel I planned, and it’s going by more smoothly than the first.