The more I write scenes, the more aware of my surroundings I become. In “The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer,” Sandra Scofield says that, “the incidental movements and activities of characters help to define them, and the things they surround themselves with and use are part of who they are….What they do in response to events can be external signs of what they are feeling.”
We don’t want to interrupt the flow of a scene or dialogue by filling the scene with unnecessary detail but we do want enough detail to have our characters feel grounded in space and time and, if possible, we want to use details that can show who the characters are. 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.
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 had a story or scene to write but struggled with finding a way into it?
I have a friend who’s known for the stories she tells. She’s a keen observer of people and life and has a way of making scenes come alive. By observing her oral storytelling technique, I’ve learned how to find my way into writing scenes and stories.
Storytelling has been used since the beginning of time as a way to process life. Before paper or printing presses existed, stories were told verbally. My friend instinctively adopts the techniques of natural storytelling by creating foreshadowing, suspense, strong images, and closure. When she tells a story, I can tell she feeds off her audience, whether it’s one or several, for cues that her story resonates.
If you’re struggling with how to get into a scene or story, you might try telling it to a friend or two.
While some people say you don’t want to “talk your story out” for fear of losing the energy of it, you might find it could actually be a useful tool if you do it with purpose. Read more
Last week, I was sitting in my cube at work when I heard the squeak and clatter of a cart being wheeled down the aisle near my desk. Since it was on the other side of the wall, I couldn’t see it, but I could hear the man who was pushing the cart sing as he rolled along.
He stopped on the other side of the cube wall near the water machine. I heard the thunk of a big jug of water as he replaced an empty one with the new, then the gurgle of water as it settled in. During all this, the man sang the Michael Jackson song, “The Way You Make Me Feel.” (He had a great voice too.)
As this was happening, I heard the sound of two men talking as they walked towards us down the hall discussing lunch and if the weather might be nice and if they should go out for lunch. The man pushing the cart stopped singing long enough to tell them, “It’s a lovely day.” He resumed singing, and I heard the ding of the elevator bell as he wheeled and bumped his cart into the elevator.
As I reflected on what I’d just heard, I realized that I had a picture in my mind of the scene on the other side of the wall, even though I didn’t see any of the “characters.” It also occurred to me that I probably picked up more sensory details that were auditory due to not being able to see, but only hear, the action around me.
I imagine if I’d been able to watch the action take place, I might have relied more on what I saw than heard, and I might have missed some of the auditory details. Read more
As I write my next book, I find it helpful to think back on what has excited me about other stories or characters.
In my last post, I shared a few of my favorite scenes or ideas from the movies. Below is my list of recent in-print favorites. These are either scenes, images, objects or themes that have stuck with me and made me wish I’d come up with the them.
Karen Marie Moning’s “Fever” series. In her fantasy world, “Death-by-Sex” Faes can turn their powers off and on, capturing a person with lust. One of these Faes uses a pearl necklace in a very erotic, highly charged way. It’s one of the most unique and memorable “sex” scenes (there’s no actual sex) I’ve ever read. This is one of those scenes I wish I’d written. I’ve written more about this in my post, “How to Write a Good Sex Scene.” Read more
People often tell me they want to write a book. They’re stuck, they say, because they just don’t know where to start. The thought of writing a book can be daunting. In fact, the more I learn about writing, the more I feel the enormity of what it takes to create a well-written manuscript. Compiled from workshops, personal experience, and advice from mentors, try these ideas to get your story moving.
Write the ending first. Many writers have an ending to a story in mind before they even know what comes first. If you know your ending, write it out first and use it as a springboard to create the story that comes before. If you know your ending, you likely have a sense of the themes and emotional throughline that will drive it forward. Read more