Posted in Misc Topic

Anatomy of a Scene

Intentions II

This week, we are continuing our exploration of breaking down the scene with a look at scene intentions.

Remember that there are different kinds of intentions.

Author intention, for example, is what you, the author, intend your book to be about, how you want to present information to the reader, what genre you will write in etc. You are the one who controls all the variables with regard to your book, good, bad, or indifferent. Of course, we all hope for good, so the goal is to go into your writing project with some cognizance of the process.

With regards to your plot, an intention is a specific direction your character takes in the scene. This intention can arise either out of consequence of the last scene or out of some impending situation from the overall plot. If the impending situation is directing your character, you can consider this a plot-based intention. This means that scenes of this ilk are created and written with the specific goal of getting your character to the end of the story. Just be careful to make sure it is not too easy for your character to get to the end.

Sometimes, the scene intention is situational. Your character murdered someone in the last scene and now they must deal with the consequences. Do they run? Do they turn themselves into the police? Do they ask for help to hide the body? The situation of the last scene has determined that your character must stop the main intent of getting to the end of the story (the overall story goal), in order to deal with the current situation. This particular intention is scene-specific. These are short-term character goals and intentions. These kinds of scenes also add tension to your story, because these keep your character from getting to the end.

But what if the intention of the scene is to stop your character from moving forward at all? This is the kind of intention that your villain might have. The villain’s intention is opposition, and it is their goal to make your main character fail. Period. Now your character is not moving forward toward the end of the story. Neither are they dealing with repercussions of past actions. Your character is now having to stop and deal with something completely unexpected. Note that this kind of intention creates a plot twist, and complications for your character and may also create a new intention for your character temporarily as they now have to deal with the villain’s plans.

Think of these different types of intentions as you outline your story. As you think of your author intention, remember that it is your job to create a dynamic story for your reader. You will need to set your intentions for yourself, your characters, plot, villain, and know when and how to keep your character from completing their goal, and if you break these down by scene you will have an easier job of writing your novel.

Next time: The opening scene

1901180

Posted in Misc Topic

Anatomy of a Scene

Setting Intentions

We are continuing our exploration of writing scenes, which includes all the elements that should be in a scene for it to be a successful piece of writing. The ultimate goal of outlining and writing your novel using scenes is that you will complete it with a minimum of wasted time and effort.

This week I thought we would focus on intentions for our scenes. Remember that a scene is a specific place where continuous action occurs in the novel. You can have a scene that encompasses an entire chapter or multiple scenes in each chapter. I prefer the latter option.

A scene should have a beginning, a middle, and an ending which ideally includes some hook to cause the reader to turn the page. Your scene should be set up properly with enough visual clues to allow your reader to see the events of the scene in their mind’s eye. Each scene should include some of the five senses to help your reader become emotionally involved with your characters, and each scene should have enough tension to keep the reader enticed in the story.

Before you write your scene, think about what it is that your protagonist wants. What does your character need? This is important. The character must have an intention when they enter the scene. It could be your character wants to escape from a killer. It could be that your character wants to ask someone for a date. As the author, you should decide whether or not your character will achieve their intention before the end of the scene, or if they will fail. Regardless of failure or success, your character should encounter complications that put a wrinkle in their plans. It is these complications that will build suspense for your reader.

Say for example your character wants to ask someone for a date. They are in a coffee shop and they see the person of their dreams across the room. They get up to approach their dear intended, but they spill their coffee all down their front. Now they must detour to the bathroom and clean themselves up. Your character has failed on the first try. After blotting their shirt with a wad of paper towels they go back to ask their intended for a date. But now, their love interest has a guest at their table. Drats. Oh, wait. It’s your character’s side-kick who always wants to help. Well, that’s good. Except, your side-kick always messes things up for your character. Oh, no. Your character’s love interest jumps up from the table and runs out of the coffee shop. It’s a clear failure.

As the author, it’s your job not to make things too easy for your character. You should know before you write when and where your character will succeed or fail, and when they will encounter complications. Note that you do have to let your character succeed sometimes. Just be sure they don’t succeed all the time.

As you are outlining your new scene you have to make sure that the scene and the scene intention makes sense to your plot. If your story is about monkeys in space, it is unlikely that a scene on dating would be appropriate. Maybe you want to explore what a monkey date would be like. A monkey walks into a bar…but don’t do it unless it truly works for your plot. This tangent would be a waste of your writing time.

When you outline your scene intentions think about who will oppose your character’s goal(s). Is there another person in your character arsenal whose sole motivation is to thwart your protagonist at every opportunity? Should your villain be in the scene? Or is there another person whose sole purpose is to help your character achieve their goals? Yes, this side-kick can help your character, but not so easily, and not too soon. And it may be that this side-kick intends to help your protagonist but their assistance always goes amiss, just as in the coffee date scene above.

Regardless, be sure to make sure that each and every scene in your novel is there for a reason, and the reason is to move the story forward to the end. Don’t waste time.

Remember, there are no dating monkeys in space.

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited

Posted in Misc Topic

Anatomy of a Scene

Tension

Happy New Year!

For the last few months, I’ve been talking about writing your novel using scenes. Writing your novel one scene at a time will make you a more productive writer and a better writer.

So let’s jump into it.

We want our stories to have enough conflict and tension to keep the reader turning the page. Tension is exciting and the anticipation of the outcome for the reader is what keeps them reading, and keeps you selling books. Tension is good.

Remember that if your scene has no tension then it will be boring and boring is bad. Each of your scenes must have some tension. The tension can be created through multiple channels such as character action, setting, and dialogue. It can also be generated through plot twists and foreshadowing.

So how do you create tension?

  • Make your character fail.
  • Don’t let your characters accomplish their goals.
  • Create a plot twist.
  • Add emotion to the scene.
  • Get your character in trouble.
  • Make things go wrong.
  • Use foreshadowing to let your character feel uneasy about what they think might happen. And then let the worst possible thing happen.
  • Reveal something unexpected to your character.

The main point is that you want to make it hard for your characters to do whatever it is that they want to do. If you review your scene before and after your write it, and you make sure that whatever can possibly go wrong will go wrong, you have succeeded in adding tension to your story.

There are also other ways to increase tension.

Condense time. If nothing happens for three days in your story and you planned to show your characters sitting around eating bon bons, don’t. That would be boring and boring is bad. Condense time.

Condense information. If the narrator tends to drone on with unimportant detail, condense that information to only that which is pertinent to the story. The information may be interesting to you, but if it doesn’t move the story forward why are you writing it? Condense information.

Think up creative ways to add tension to each scene and you will create a thrilling novel for your reader to devour and that is a good thing.

Next wee: More on writing scenes.

Copyright: Image by StockUnlimited