HOW TO KEEP YOUR MOMENTUM
What do we do! What’s next? Where do we go from here? Pete has just decided to dial 911. The reader is relieved. At least help is on the way. I mean, we have no idea what Pete’s father is doing. The “sequel” has been written.
Now we write another scene. Remember the three elements that we need? We need the goal, the conflict, and the disaster. And the key here is the keep the tension mounting. There are a lot of avenues that we could take, but let’s go with one of the obvious ones.
Here’s the goal.
Pete wants to make sure that the police handles the situation with his killer-of-a-dad.
That seems clear enough. Now comes the conflict.
Pete is panicking on the phone with the 911 dispatch, and they are having trouble hearing him. His voice is shaking, but they finally can get a police response unit to his location. Before he gets off the phone, a black SUV speeds into the driveway. Its lights are beaming right onto Pete. A man gets out, calls to Pete, and chases him down.
Whoa! Not what we wanted to happen to Pete. Just a few more minutes and the police would have arrived, but now we see that the conflict has escalated.
The next step is to write the disaster.
The man catches Pete, wrestles him to the ground, and drags him inside to his father. The man snatches the boy’s phone to see the person he called. He sees 911 in the call queue, and they rush Pete into the SUV.
See how these events compound onto one another to make more scenes. All this started because Pete wanted to see why his father abandoned him as a child. Now Pete is being carted off in an SUV just when he thought that the police were going to save him.
Think about your novel and how your scenes are crafted. Could it be beneficial to adopt Swain’s method into your own planning?
It’s slightly different writing for children, as child readers need to be given a little “rest” in between conflict and disaster. Hence JK Rowling using the Hogwart’s common room and the library. Here the child protagonists sit down and reflect a moment before hurtling into the next conflict or disaster. Or Kenneth Grahame taking Ratty, Mole and Badger home at the end of their respective adventures, where they have a good meal and a rest. Writing for adults I’d employ your method to keep them out of breath and turning those pages:)
You have a great point, Maria. But even we adults need a rest. I’ll touch on that some in the next week. Unfortunately, I haven’t read Harry Potter (I know…I’m shunned lol), but I wonder if JK employed this method within the same scene, and then she used the relaxation as the next “phase” before she introduced more conflict — kinda’ like a debriefing session. Thanks, Maria for your always insightful comments.
It changed throughout the books, as she started off writing for the 8 – 12 age range and, as Harry Potter grew up and his readers with him, JKR started to employ more adult reader methods.
Impressive! That’s the sign of an evolving author.
Can’t wait to read her first adult reader book out later this year – a crime novel, apparently.
Hmm…I didn’t know she had decided a genre. That should be interesting. I wonder how good it’s going to be.
Arguably the most eagerly awaited book of our times.
I was thinking about this as I looked over my WIP yesterday… Does it make sense to say that each scene ought to follow the pattern of Goal, Conflict, and Disaster, but it doesn’t necessarily have to involve the protagonist? i.e. even if my MC is in the scene, the goal can be that of a secondary character, with my MC providing the conflict and disaster?
Does that make sense?
Layla, that’s a good question. It certainly does make sense. The goal, conflict, disaster idea helps to provide a platform for the scene that you’re writing. It gives the scene a purpose so that there’s some kinda of problem to be solved. I believe that as long as there’s a dilemma, then your scene works. And truthfully, every scene will not end in a disaster. There will be scenes that end in success. The reader needs to feel triumph throughout the book also.
In my WIP, I’m writing in 3rd P. Omni, so whichever character is focused on in a scene is the character who sets the goal. Now that character can also be responsible for the conflict and the disaster.
I know you’re busy, but I nominated you for a Reader Appreciation Award. Thanks so much for all your helpful posts!
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