A scene is more than just the background of your novel. A scene is everything that happens in the reader’s mind as it relates to your novel.

Two Basic Scene Types

Scene writing is the most integral, and obvious part of any story, but it is also overlooked and the least understood part of storytelling. First, type of scene is the scene proper. The second type is called the sequel.

Scene Building Blocks

Each scene follows a specific structure. At its heart, the arc of the scene is the same as that of the larger story structure exhibited over the course of the book: 1. Beginning which is the Hook. 2. The middle which is where the scene develops and finally there is the end or the climax of the scene.

What is the Scene’s goal?

Possible scene goals are endless, but very specific to your story. Your character can want anything in any given scene, but within that universe of options, you must narrow down the desires expressed within your scene to those that will drive the plot. Everything else needs to be cut and either discarded or put elsewhere in the novel where it becomes an integral part of that scene. What information do you want passed on in this scene? How can you best pass that information on? As we learned last week, that information is given in the form of narrative (or internal dialogue, action, or dialogue).

Scene Conflict Options

In the scene proper, conflict keeps your story moving forward. “No conflict, no story” because without conflict, the story comes to an end. When the character’s initial goal is stymied by conflict, it causes the character to react with a new goal, which is stymied by further conflict, which causes that person to again modify his or her goal until the goal is reached and the story ends.

Options for Disasters in a Scene

The disaster is the payoff at the end of the scene. This is what readers have been waiting for—often, with a delicious sense of dread. It answers that question: ‘What’s the worst that can happen? Or later in the story in might be to answer the question “How was he going to get out of that one?”

Scene Variations

You’ve already probably seen some successful scenes, in your own stories and in popular books and movies, that don’t seem to quite fit the proposed structure. How exactly does that work? Your scene might be something as simple as a transition scene where narrative is used to describe that time or location changed. Your scenes might not be action or dialogue, but rather it is internal dialogue which is our second main form of scene which is the sequel.

Sequel Building Blocks

The sequel—the second half of the Scene—sometimes gets shortchanged. But it is every bit as important, since it allows characters to process the events of the scene and figure out their next move.

In a sequel, a character or characters ponder what has just happened and to plan how to deal with this new information.

Options for Sequel Reactions

At the heart of every sequel is the narrating character’s reaction to the preceding scene’s disaster. This is where the author gets the opportunity to dig around inside his character’s emotional and mental processes and find out what he’s really made of.

Sometimes the sequel reaction is not just the reaction of the protagonist, but the reaction of everyone involved and their decision on how to move forward as a group.

Sequel Dilemmas Options

Once your character’s first emotional response to the previous scene’s disaster has passed, he will have to get down to the all-important business of thinking about what he’s going to do next. The previous disaster has left him in quite a pickle. It was a catastrophic declaration. The character or characters now respond with, “What do I (we) do now?”

Sequel Decisions Options

The most instinctive of all the sequel’s building blocks is the decision. This third and final piece of the sequel grows out of the character’s dilemma and leads right into the next scene’s goal. The decision is the little cattle prod on your story’s backside that keeps it moving.

Variations on the Sequel

Sequels, even more than scenes, offer all kinds of flexibility. To help you realize the possibilities of the sequel, let’s take a look at some of the common variations.

The key to getting a sequel is in the emotions that are portrayed in the sequel. In the sequel, you’re expressing how what happened in the scene affected the POV character. You can do this in several different ways. You can do it through description and narration. For instance, you could tell the reader that the POV character was elated by the event. You can do it through an internal monologue with the POV character telling you that he feels sad and hopeless, or you could do through dramatization like the POV character showing anger by punching a wall. Finally, you can show how the person is feeling by giving away the tone of how he’s feeling by using elements of the setting and weather. For instance, a strong sequel might be shown after a fire that burns down the POV character’s home, as the fire trucks are pulling away, it begins to rain and the POV character is soaked to the skin with someone else coming up to him and putting a blanket around his shoulders and leading him out of the rain.

At first, scene development can be a subject that takes a while to fully grasp and, as a result, can spawn all kinds of questions. However, once authors grasp scene structure, the whole approach to storytelling becomes clearer and more refined and easier to navigate.

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To get a scene right, it takes a balance in narrative, character interspection, action, and dialogue.

Want to write the best novel ever? Wouldn’t you love to write a book that a reader couldn’t put down?

Part of the skill needed for this to happen is to have a compelling story, but another part of it involves balancing these three elements of fiction: dialogue, narrative, POV character introspection, and action.   

This is an intuitive process, and you probably didn’t think about how you wove these elements when you were writing that first draft, however, now that you’ve nailed your plot, your characters, and your scenes, you’re ready to zero in on these three elements as well. To do this, move inside your characters. Now, during the revision process, when reading back through the story, you can better identify with dialogue, narrative or action that overtakes the scene.

The perfectly balanced scene has a perfect pitch, like a well-balanced stringed quartet and you are the musical director.

Balance Novel Elements like a Stringed Quartet

Dialogue is like a first chair violinist who carries the melody of a musical piece. The dialogue should always be the main emphasis in a scene, however, dialogue should never be the only focus of a scene. Just as the second chair violinist, the celloist, and bass player adds depth to a scene, so also can narrative, introspection, and action.

Just as a musical score sometimes has one of the instruments do a solo portion, if you want to highlight a particular character trait in your viewpoint character or focus on something specific that the characters are talking about, you don’t want the scene cluttered, the reader distracted, or the pace slowed by action or narrative. When someone is telling you a story, the setting, the other people around you, everything just kind of fades away, and you’re intent only on what the other person is saying. You cut away action and narrative and leave only your characters’ spoken words.

If an author weaves action and narrative throughout the dialogue, slows the pace of the novel down, however, if you keep the dialogue primary to fast-paced scene of dialogue. If a scene is just dialogue, we get the full impact how life expresses itself in his life. When you isolate a character’s dialogue, if the reader is paying attention, he’ll become privy to the character’s personality and motives in a way that’s not possible in the woven scene just because there’s too much going on.

Scene Pacing

Pacing is probably the most common fiction element to address when considering how to weave dialogue, narrative and action. If you’re creating a fast-paced conflict scene between two or more people, you might do well to consider only dialogue, at least for parts of it. In this case, use action to create movement, and use narrative and introspection only when catching your breath.

The passage would be very effective without a bunch of narrative bogging down the moment. The dialogue should demonstrate a character’s feelings toward another person. Dialogue can take the protagonist pages to tell us something in narrative, whereas a scene of dialogue can quickly show us through that character’s own words said out loud. Narrative explains, and dialogue blurts out.

Similar reasoning applies when writing scenes with only narrative, character introspection, or only action. You want to focus on something in your character’s mind or describe something that would only sound contrived in dialogue, so you use straight narrative.

If the action needs to drive the scene forward because it’s intense and emotional, your characters just wouldn’t be talking during this time.

Sometimes, as in real life, there’s just nothing to say at the moment. Always, let your characters lead the story along.

Adjusting Pace

Blending dialogue, action and narrative requires finding your story’s rhythm. As you write our scenes, to help you determine what you need to do in your rewrites, consider answering these questions about your story.

Ask yourself:

Is the story moving a little too slowly, and do I need to speed things up? (Use dialogue.)

Is it time to give the reader some background on the characters so they’re more sympathetic? (Use narrative, dialogue or a combination of the two.)

Do I have too many dialogue scenes in a row? (Use action or narrative to break it up.)

Are my characters constantly confiding in others about things they should only be pondering in their minds (use narrative).

Do I need to get out of my character’s head because a conversation would be more effective? (Use dialogue.)

Does this scene have too much dialogue? Narrative? Action? (Insert more of the deficient elements.)

Do my characters provide too many artificially created background details as they talk? (Use narrative.)

Revealing Character Motive

Whether we’re using dialogue, action or narrative to move the story forward, any or all three of these elements reveal character motives. Your story’s dialogue can reveal motive in a way that’s natural, because whether we’re aware of it or not, we reveal our own motives all the time in our everyday lives. Understanding a character’s motive is to understand the character.

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Over the past several weeks, we have discussed how to move the story along through transitional means of scenes and chapters. This week, we’re going start looking at what goes into each scene. We’ll assess each scene and build them to appear realistic and draw the reader into story.

Imagine the story is part of a scene of a play. You have well developed characters in the wings ready to act out the story lines that you have ready for them. However, the stage is still bare, and the props have not yet been gathered. The characters also do not have their scripts. By the end of this month, your characters will have all of these.

This week our focus will be on the setting so get out your paint brushes and get ready to develop your story’s backdrop.

Setting

Setting is the place of story and answers the questions where and when. Writers and readers expect a story to take place somewhere and at some time.  Setting includes locations (indoors and outdoors), cities or countries or planets, era or age, time of day, and cultural milieu.

Since you have written the first draft and have developed your book this far, you have, at least, a general idea of the details of your setting. Setting is a necessity, but it doesn’t affect readers the way plot and character do, and readers aren’t drawn into the novel because of the story’s setting. However, setting does effect mood and event possibilities and character temperament. Change the novel’s setting and you create a new story.

Setting influences character type, word choice, pace, tone, even genre. Setting enhances story by enfolding plot and character in a place where they fit, where their strengths can best be highlighted. Setting helps characters and events shine, it gives them a backdrop that allows them to show what best fits the story and hide what doesn’t belong.

Writers can use setting to bolster their weak areas—bring depth to a plot-first story by introducing a setting that heightens the characters’ strengths and weaknesses. Setting can be used as a jumping off place for a dramatic action scene.

Scenes

Scenes in plays are similar to scenes in novels. If you write a short section in which something significant happens in a single setting, then it is a scene. The scene directly affects what happens later. “What happens later” is the sequel. Here is a good article on how to write perfect scenes.

Action launches tend to energize the reader’s physical senses. To create an action launch:

1. GET STRAIGHT TO THE ACTION. Don’t drag your feet here. “Jimmy jumped off the cliff” rather than “Jimmy stared at the water, imagining how cold it would feel when he jumped.”

2. HOOK THE READER WITH BIG OR SURPRISING ACTIONS. An outburst, car crash, violent heart attack or public fight at the launch of a scene allows for more possibilities within it.

3. BE SURE THAT THE ACTION IS TRUE TO YOUR CHARACTER. Don’t have a shy character choose to become suddenly uninhibited at the launch of a scene. Do have a bossy character belittle another character in a way that creates conflict.

4. ACT FIRST, THINK LATER. If a character is going to think in your action opening, let the action come first, as in, “Elizabeth slapped the Prince. When his face turned pink, horror filled her. What have I done? she thought.”

5. SAVE TIME BY BEGINNING WITH SUMMARY. Sometimes actions will simply take up more time and space in the scene than you would like. A scene beginning needs to move fairly quickly and, on occasion, summary will get the reader there faster.

6. COMMUNICATE NECESSARY INFORMATION TO THE READER BEFORE THE ACTION KICKS IN. Sometimes information needs to be imparted simply in order to set action in motion later in the scene. Opening sentences such as, “My mother was dead before I arrived,” “The war had begun” and, “The storm left half of the city underwater,” could easily lead to action.

7. REVEAL A CHARACTER’S THOUGHTS OR INTENTIONS THAT CANNOT BE SHOWN THROUGH ACTION. Coma victims, elderly characters, small children and other characters sometimes cannot speak or act for physical, mental or emotional reasons; therefore the scene may need to launch with narration to let the reader know what they think and feel.

8. ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC VISUAL DETAILS. If your character is deserted on an island, the reader needs to know the lay of the land. Any fruit trees in sight? What color sand? Are there rocks, shelter or wild, roaming beasts?

9. USE SCENERY TO SET THE TONE OF THE SCENE. Say your scene opens in a jungle where your character is going to face danger; you can describe the scenery in language that conveys darkness, fear and mystery.

10. REFLECT A CHARACTER’S FEELINGS THROUGH SETTING. Say you have a sad character walking through a residential neighborhood. The descriptions of the homes can reflect that sadness—houses can be in disrepair, with rotting wood and untended yards. You can use weather in the same way. A bright, powerfully sunny day can reflect a mood of great cheer in a character.

Scene launches happen so quickly and are so soon forgotten that it’s easy to rush through them, figuring it doesn’t really matter how you get it started. Don’t fall prey to that thinking. Take your time with each scene launch. Craft it as carefully and strategically as you would any other aspect of your scene. Remember that a scene launch is an invitation to the reader, beckoning him to come further along with you. Make your invitation as alluring as possible.

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Why Your Book Description Matters

The book description is the pitch to the reader about why they should buy your book. It is the basis of the sales copy that will get them to see that the book is for them (or not), and then convince them to make the purchase.

It may seem that this article was put here out of place, but the truth is, if you haven’t already started it, now is a good time to start putting together your book description for your book either to include in your query letter to agents and publishers or to add to the back cover of your self-published book.

Remember, people are looking for a reason to not buy your book, so having a good book description is key to keeping them on the purchasing track.

How to Write Your Book Description

A good way to write a book description is to use the Hook, Pain, Pleasure, Legitimacy, Open Loop Format

1. Hook

The first sentence should be something that will grab your desired reader and make them take notice. If that isn’t right–or worse, if it’s wrong–you can lose the reader immediately, and then it doesn’t matter what the rest of the description says.

People are always looking for a reason to move on to the next thing. Don’t give it to them. Make the first sentence something that compels them to read the rest of the description. Every good book description you see is interesting from that first sentence. The idea is to focus on the boldest claim the book offers. Think if that most sensational fact or the most compelling idea.

2. Pain

In nonfiction, experts recommend that once you have their attention, then clearly describe the current pain they are in. In novel writing, the idea is similar, but instead of showing your reader’s pain, show your character’s pain. If you can accurately and realistically describe the pain of the character so that the reader empathizes with them, df, you will have them fully engaged in the description and seriously entertaining the idea of buying the book.

What pain does the character face? What unsolved problems do they have? Or, perhaps what unachieved aspirations and goals do they have? Clearly and directly articulate these, in plain and simple language. Make the situation seem impossible.

3. Pleasure

Then offer them a question about a possible solution. Done right, this creates an emotional connection by describing how the book will make the potential reader feel after reading it. Or even better, what the reader will get out of reading your novel.

Legitimacy

This is simply about letting the reader know why they should listen to you, why you are the authority and the expert that they need to hear from. This can be very short and should not be a focus of the book description. You want just enough social proof to make them keep reading.

This can also go in the hook. If there is an impressive fact to mention that should be bolded in the first sentence. Or if there is one salient and amazing thing about you or the book, that can go in the book description, something like, “From the author of [INSERT WELL KNOWN BESTSELLING BOOK.]” If you’re an unknown writer, put in something like “If you liked (a book of the same genre by a famous author,) you’ll love (title of this book). Or if your book is a cross of two genres, write something this “Where Jaws and Twilight meet.”

5. Open Loop

You state the problem or question your book addresses, you show that you solve or answer it, but you also leave a key piece out. This encourages the the reader’s interest and leaves them begging for more.

You do want to be very explicit about what your story is about, but you don’t want the plot’s solution in the description. This is to create an “open loop” that will make your reader realize that they have to buy your novel.  

Here is the description that I used in my first novel: When God Turned His Head:

Beautiful Drusilla was in love with Kanter Thorton but to protect him she was forced to marry another man. After years of abuse her husband is poisoned and all eyes are on her as the likely suspect. Only Kanter and a young lawyer named John Adams believe she is innocent. Will Drusilla finally be set free in this drama set in the backdrop of Post-puritan/Pre-revolutionary War Boston?

It makes you want to read more: After reading this description, any reader is going to keep going into the reviews and other information. You’re hooked—you want to know how the future second president of the United States is going to help solve this murder..

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If you have read this before, there’s a link at the bottom of the page with more researched information on a YouTube video. If you haven’t, it is an interesting read!

howmyspiritsings

skeleton in chains

I mentioned in one of my earlier posts that I have been doing some research in a book called the History of Erie County, Pennsylvania (written in 1884) one of the things that I found interesting was idea that before the Native Americans lived in the area, there had been another group of people who lived in North America.

The Erie County Connection

According to The History of Erie county, there had been many indications that proved conclusively that the county had once been peopled by these giants. When the railroad link of the Erie and Pittsburgh Railroad from the Lake Shore road to the dock at Erie was being built, the workers dug into a great mass of bones at the crossing of the public road which ran by the rolling mill. From the way the bones were thrown together, the workers surmised that a terrible battle had taken…

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Time to Edit Your First Draft

What is a Transition?

Not every scene is like a basic scene or like a main scene some scenes are all introspection, some are all action without introspection. Some scenes are scenes that are specifically used to relocate a character in time or space. These are called transition scenes.

However, not all transitions are full scenes. A scene transition is usually not a scene in itself. It’s the narration between scenes. Too much narration turns a novel into a report. Transitions can be short like “The next morning”. They can be a couple of paragraphs. They could be entire scenes. (Like a train ride).

Scene transitions can be pure narrative, a recitation of who did what and when. Narration is often discouraged since it’s telling rather than showing, but narration is quite useful for transitions. It’s an efficient way to indicate a change in place or time and provide details without drawing out the information into a scene of its own.

Why Use Scene Transitions

To provide description

To break tension

To slow the pace

To skip unimportant events or time periods

To create or switch mood or tone

To advance the time

To change location

To change viewpoint character

While scene transitions can be used to change the tone, they could be used just as easily to maintain tone. That is, if your story is humorous, keep your transitions humorous too.

Scene to Scene

In fiction, a scene is a unit of drama. A sequel is what follows; an aftermath. Together, scene and sequel provide the building blocks of plot for short stories, novels, and other forms of fiction.

Scenes are indispensable when writing a novel. A novel is lengthy, about 80,000-130,000 words. Scenes are usually only 400-500 words long. You can easily edit a scene rather than editing the whole manuscript, which makes editing more manageable. During the editing process, you can check for structure, flow, characters, and plot holes. You can also break up one scene into two or more scenes if you want the editing process simplified.

A scene transition takes characters and readers to a new location, a new time, or a new point of view. Transitions can also be used to show a character’s change in heart or frame of mind.

So, we use scene transitions to skip periods of time or to change to a new location in the story, glossing over events that happen between the new and old times or locations.

Scene transitions need to identify place, time, and viewpoint character, especially if there’s been a change in any of the three. If the new scene has a change in mood or tone, that should also be established right away.

If the viewpoint character has changed, identify the new viewpoint character right off by naming him.

Time and place can be established in any number of ways. They can:

  • Name the new place
  • Describe the new place
  • Describe the event
  • Mention the time or day or date
  • Show a character doing something we already knew he’d be doing at a set time or in a particular place

Chapter Transitions

Scene transitions can be seamlessly inserted at the beginnings of chapters since readers expect a transition between chapters. In fact, you don’t need to write a detailed transition if you ended the previous chapter with a teaser of what’s to come.

What are Chapters?

A chapter is a main division in a novel. Each chapter can be either numbered or titled or both Each chapter is made up of two or more scene. However, some chapters may encompass only one scene. Chapters can be long or short. However, you don’t want them too short in that you end up with too many of them or too long that it becomes cumbersome to the reader. Chapter length may depend on the novel’s audience. For instance, chapters of children’s books will be a lot shorter than novels written for adults.

How do you effectively create chapters in a novel? It depends. In adventure and mystery novels, some people like to end chapters on cliffhangers. However, the bottom line is that you should end chapters whenever you feel a major shift in the story, whether it be a change in point of view or a new scene.

Chapter Breaks

Thoughtful chaptering is more important than ever. By starting and ending in the right places, your chapter breaks alone can serve the powerful function of building suspense and keeping your readers reading. Unlike sentences or paragraphs, which have rules, chapters are artistic decisions; there are no rules. Here are three simple, essential techniques that can help you make effective chapter pauses.

1. First Focus on Writing

To decide where to insert breaks, some writers make chapters part of their initial outline. However, others see this method as too restrictive and feel that the most effective chapter breaks come from writing first and then evaluating the structure. Instead they structure their outline by episodes and events, not chapters. When the draft is finished, they go back and look over the manuscript and decide where to make the best chapter breaks.

2. When your story needs a change

Changes of place, changes of time and changes of point of view (POV) are all excellent places for chapter breaks. Sometimes, our stories make them necessary like in changes of place, perspective, point of view, and plot direction. This transition tells the reader that its time for reorientation. Chapter breaks of this type lead to continuity and pacing which are necessary to increase suspense.

3. During an action scene

How can I end this part so that the sleepy reader is compelled to keep the light on, if only to see how some crisis turns out or how some crucial question is answered? For even more suspense, break the chapter in the heart of action.

Effective as it is, there are a couple of problems: First, you don’t want to end every chapter this way, or even most of them. It becomes predictable, which is something you never want anybody to say about your novel. After a while, this tactic loses its effectiveness. Suspension of disbelief can go just so far. For the technique to be most effective, it needs to be an integral part of the overall story, not a gratuitous invention inserted just to try to keep the reader turning pages.

Changing Scenes within Chapters

Not all scene changes occur between chapters. Sometimes you need a scene change within a chapter.

If point of view that’s changing, be sure to identify the new viewpoint character (POV) immediately. A change in point of view qualifies as a change in scene because the reader is in the head of a different character—different thoughts and emotions. There’s probably a different tone to this section as well, as you’d expect with a different character’s personality both coloring and filtering the reader’s perceptions. Never change POV within a paragraph.

POV changes without notice and within scenes cause two major problems. First, they confuses the reader. You never want your readers getting lost in your novel. You certainly don’t want any of them to have to reread because you failed to provide enough scene markers. Each time a reader stops reading because she must reread a passage, she is pulled out of the fiction you’ve crafted. You lose the reader’s trust when he is repeatedly yanked from the novel’s world.

And second, the reader loses the connection he had with the viewpoint character. You work to create connections for your reader, so he can step into the mind and heart and life of a character. If you’ve done it well, the reader will read as if he’s experiencing the events.

Chapter Endings

Chapter endings in fiction look both backward and forward. They are transitions between what has already happened and what is about to break loose. They are links and doorways and connection points.

The end of a chapter—the last scene, the last paragraph, the last sentence—brings closure to one chapter but at the same time needs to lead readers and characters to the next scene and chapter and story event.

A chapter ending that doesn’t satisfy the events of the chapter, at least some of them, hasn’t done its work. And the chapter ending that doesn’t pull readers deeper into the story, fill them with anticipation for what comes next, also hasn’t accomplished all that it should.

Except for the first and last chapters, most chapter endings have similar purposes.

Endings will address and resolve or address and deepen story problems introduced in that chapter or earlier chapters. Of course, not every problem is resolved, but there will be some closure. At the same time, some new event or twist will raise the tension level. Some answers will be provided, but those answers might be what drives character and reader into the next story event. And into the next chapter.

Successful endings will raise tension for readers and keep them involved in the story.

Not every chapter will have the same degree of closure as other chapters. Vary your chapter endings, but the endings should reflect what came before if only to mention an event or character or repeat a word or phrasing that tie story elements together.

  • Chapter endings will not put readers to sleep.
  • Chapter endings should introduce or raise tension and/or conflict
  • Chapter endings can introduce new problems.
  • Chapter endings can reveal something new about a character’s personality or his reasons for being involved in whatever story issue has a hold on him.
  • Chapter endings can introduce new characters, new aspects of old characters, new events, and secrets.
  • Chapters can end with dialogue or with action. They should contain something new or surprising.
  • Chapters should never end with a character yawning and going to bed. The reader will do the same and may never return.
  • Chapter endings (other than the one for the final chapter) will not resolve all story issues revealed up to that point. If they did, readers would have no reason to keep reading.
  • Use cliffhanger endings if that works for the genre and the style of story you want to tell.
  • Use anticipation and fear and any emotion that will keep readers turning pages.
  • Shake up your story and characters with the unexpected at a chapter’s end. Satisfy and tease at the same time.
  • Write captivating chapter endings and never allow your readers to become bored.

Get Your FREE Copy of The Comprehensive Novel Editing Checklist

This is the first post in a series of blog posts about how to edit your novel. If you have a first draft that you would love to publish this year, be sure to pick up a copy of my novel editing checklist and if you haven’t already, sign up to make sure that you never miss a post of this editing series.

FREE COMPREHENSIVE NOVEL EDITING CHECKLIST



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Time to Edit Your First Draft

You’ve developed strong story ARCs. You’ve fleshed out and built strong character ARCs. You have determined point of view and which tense you’re going to use throughout the book. Your novel has a strong beginning and a strong ending.

Building a Scene

The basic building block of any story whether play or novel is the scene. Every scene is a step from the first scene to the last.

Look over the story ARCs that you’ve created and determine where each scene of the ARC will occur in the story. The first thing to do is to determine what the purpose or purposes each scene will have regarding moving the story forward.

Different types of scenes exist. These types fall under three broad categories. First is the action scene. The second is the introspection scene. Third is the transitional scene.

Determine what action needs to occur within this scene and what needs to be discussed by the characters during this scene. Work any good details from the first draft into this second draft and eliminate any empty dialogue and rambling internalization. Develop character voices and craft unique characters based on the information in your character bible.

The Anatomy of the Basic Scene

Just as the body is made up of cells, so the novel is made up of scenes. Each scene has a goal, something to be accomplished. Two, a set-up, three location, for characters at odds or in conflict (in the case of introspection, a character could be at odds with himself.) Action, emotion, and dialogue. Finally, each scene must have a conclusion either to jettison you into the next scene or toward the next conflict.

The most important aspect of the scene is the goal of what you want to accomplish with this scene. Scenes should never be part of a story just to fill space. The more you’ve defined the scene’s goal, the better it adds to the storyline.

The object of the setup is to get characters together or to get one character alone so that character can be involved in introspection.

Location involves knowing when and where the scene is occurring.

What conflict is at stake during this scene?

How is this conflict carried out in action, emotion and dialogue? What drama is involved?

What is the conclusion of this scene? How does it set up for the next scene?

The Main Scenes

A novel has ten main scenes with various other scenes between. The main plot will be the main event of each of these ten scenes. These scenes are:

#1 – First scenes Introduce protagonist in her world. Establish her core need. Set the stage, begin building the world, bring key characters on stage.

#2 – Turning Point #1 inciting incident.

#3 – Pinch Point #1 Give a glimpse of the opposition’s power, need, and goal as well as the stakes.

#4 – Twist #1: Something new happens: a new ally, a friend becomes a foe. New info reveals a serious complication to reaching the goal. Protagonist must adjust to change with this setback.

#5 – The midpoint No turning back. Important event that propels the story forward and solidifies the protagonist’s determination to reach her goal.

#6 – Pinch Point #2 The opposition comes full force. Time to buckle down and fight through it.

#7 – Twist 2: A surprise giving (false?) hope. The goal now looks within reach. A mentor gives encouragement, a secret weapon, an important clue.

#8 – Turning Point #4 Major setback. All is lost and hopeless. Time for final push.

#9 – Turning Point #5 The climax where the goal is either reached or not; the main questions are answered.

#10 – The Ending scene. the aftermath, the wrap-up and resolution. (more discussion about this in last week’s post).

Determine what occurs during these scenes and write the scenes according to the guidelines of a basic scene and you will have the main scenes of your main plot well established.

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