I’ve been experimenting lately with different ways to enter into writing scenes. One fun way is to use a sketchpad. I purchased a 5.5 inch x 8.5 inch Strathmore Sketchpad and colored pencils for doodling and have found it immensely useful for everything from sketching scenes to settings to drawing objects that might appear in a scene.
Not a drawer? Don’t worry, neither am I. My “people” consist of stick figures and my depth perception is nonexistent. Fortunately, you don’t need to be Picasso to use sketching as a way to ignite your imagination.
The first thing I drew in my sketchpad was a dagger. One of my characters carries a dagger and I needed to “see” it in detail. As I was drawing the dagger and the sigils on the blade, I had a vision of the sigils glowing when activated so I added this into a scene. As I continued to draw the dagger, I realized two other things about it that I hadn’t known before—these will also go into my story. Read more
Writing a good scene is all about paying attention to the details. Sometimes, I like to think of my scenes as mini-stories and, in order to help me remember everything that needs to go into the scene, I scan through some of our earlier posts on scene writing.
Below are three posts full of tips for making your scenes stand out.
“Four ways to revise scenes” gives a checklist of things to look for when revising.
“The shape of a scene: endings” shows how to use tension at the end of scenes to keep readers reading.
“How to use symbols in your writing” explains how I use symbols.
I was reminded the other day that writing short pieces is great practice for writing longer pieces. I had just finished my creative nonfiction submission for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference Writing Contest and was editing it one last time when I realized I hadn’t grounded my reader in the location of the initial scene. Yes, I placed it in a mobile home but where was that home in the world? I could have left it as is and it would have still been fine, but I decided that showing where the home was located would better serve the piece as a whole.
But how to include those details in a manner that served the story while keeping the piece under the 1,500-word limit of the contest? Read more
Using images in a scene can be a good way to center an event or ground the reader in the here and now of the story. Writing images is all about going beyond the cliché and using sensory details.
One of my favorite ways to create an image is to take a simple sentence or idea and expand on it, calling in our different senses.
In my work-in-progress I want to convey at the beginning of a flashback scene that it was a hot August day. I could just state, “It was a hot August day.” This is simple and direct but, because I want to expand on the mood of the scene, I rewrote this simple sentence and fleshed it out—using some sense impressions and an image.
Rewritten example: Read more
In Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer,the author defines the term “beats” as small units of character action and reaction.
Beats are, “the way we break down events into small steps of action, making it possible to evaluate whether those steps move the action effectively toward the culmination of the scene.”
Scofield recommends jotting down the beats of each scene before we write or before we revise in order to have a clear vision of where the scene is going. If we have a sticky or muddy scene, this exercise can help clarify the scene and make it stronger. Having the beats of a scene clearly thought out also makes it easier to control pacing and review the logic of the scene. Read more
Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and some image or scene makes you think, “That’s brilliant! I wish I’d thought of that!”
Last weekend, I was working on my next book and began to wonder about my favorite scenes, objects, and ideas that have wowed me in print or on the screen.
What makes them stand out? Where’s the magic?
Below are a few movies that stand out for me and why.
Evita – My hubby and I recently saw this movie again and both started bawling in the scene where Eva is dying and her husband, Juan Peron, carries her so tenderly up the stairs. He brushes off the hired help who is supposed to help his wife and carries her himself, cradling her in his arms. The gesture is so touching, it makes his love for her come alive. I’m reminded how powerfully an outward gesture can portray an inner emotion. Read more
A couple years ago, a friend told me that when her 90-year-old mother got hearing aids, she found out she would have an adjustment period as she began to notice things that over time she had stopped hearing.
Once she began to wear the hearing aids, she heard the hum of refrigerators, sounds of cars going by outside, and other background sounds we all take for granted. This reminded me of staying in houses where I’d lie in bed in the quiet of the night and hear the creaking of the house, the wheezing of the furnace, and the clanging of radiators.
I’ve thought about how I should show this sensory part of the world in my scenes and settings. It’s a way to add realism, and I imagine it makes it easier for readers to immerse themselves in the story world I’m trying to create. Read more