Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Writer’s Math: Prep a Scene with 5+5+1 by Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt
As a novelist, I thought I’d escaped all things numerical. Fine with me, as the mention of numbers is reason to cue the white noise in my brain.

Through the years. I’ve learned that even wordsmiths like to devise equations for the writing process. Susie and Rachel have developed a variety of writer equations and — Surprise! — I’m formulating a bit of writer math myself.

I love the process of fast drafting — writing the first draft of my manuscript without stopping to rewrite, using it as an act of discovery about my characters and my plot. But how can I ensure that even my fast draft is as strong as it can be?

Simple. Whenever I write a scene, I remember the equation: 5+5+1.

5 + 5 + 1

The first 5 stands for the 5 Ws: Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Before I begin writing a scene, I type out the 5 Ws of the scene. I like to do this in red so that it stands out. I list:

Who is in the scene? Specify the main POV character and any other key character

What is going on? Focus on the main action.

Where does the scene takes place? In a castle? On a boat?

When does the scene happen? What time of year is it (if that’s important) or what time of day is it?

Why is this scene important? What is the goal of this scene? Is it an Action or ReAction scene?

5 + 5 + 1

The second 5 stands for the 5 Senses: Touch, Sight, Taste, Smell, and Hearing. I consider the main character for the scene I’m writing and then run their POV through the list, one by one. (I also type this out in red.)

EXAMPLE: What if my main POV character is a shool teacher and the scene takes place on the playground? My list might look like this:

Touch: the chainlink of a swing, a young child’s hand, some stray trash blowing across the schoolyard, an abandoned lunchbox

Sight: children climbing on the monkey bars, one child sitting by himself off to the side, a kick ball soaring over the fence into the street

Taste: bitter aftertaste of coffee

Smell: hint of autumn on the breeze, scent of cherry chapstick she applied

Hear: children laughing, footsteps running across asphalt, the sound of a school bell

Sometimes as I write out the 5 Senses I stumble upon a possible symbol to weave through my scene.

5 + 5 + 1

The 1 stands for the main emotion of the POV character in the scene. I’ve discussed the importance of determining the specific emotion the POV character is feeling in other posts. Use one word: anxious, rejected, elated, content. Write this down too — yes, in red.

Now that I’ve done my prep work, which takes 10-15 minutes, I’m ready to start writing. I don’t have to interrupt my forward motion by wondering about Storyworld — what my character might see or hear or touch — and knowing the character’s main emotion keeps the scene anchored.

TIP: You can also use the 5+5+1 Prep a Scene Equation as you finish writing for the day. Consider the scene you’ll start writing tomorrow and type out the 5 Ws, the 5 Senses, and the POV character’s main emotion for it before calling it quits. You’ll have a jumpstart on tomorrow’s word count.
About the Author
About Beth Vogt
Crazy Little Thing Called Love
by Beth K. Vogt

Beth K. Vogt believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” A 2015 RITA® Finalist and a 2014 Carol Award finalist, Beth is a contemporary romance novelist with Howard Books. Her 2014 novel, Somebody Like You, was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015 she introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love (May) and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love (June). Connect with Beth at bethvogt.com.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love
Wedding bells and storm clouds collide in the first engaging novel in a brand-new series about destination weddings, the power of love, and the possible mishaps and missteps that happen on a couple’s journey down the aisle to “I do.”

Paramedic Vanessa Hollister has put her adolescence behind her, including the unwanted label of being the new kid in town over and over again, thanks to her father’s military career. She’s overcome what her mother called “the biggest mistake of her life” and is planning an elegant destination wedding in Destin, Florida with her new fiancé. But will the reappearance of her first husband from her what-were-you-thinking teenage elopement disrupt her dream of an idyllic beach wedding?

As a professional storm chaser, Logan Hollister is used to taking risks. However, a reckless decision during the last tornado season has him questioning the future of his team, the Stormmeisters. Coming face to face with his ex-wife eight years after their divorce compels him to confront his greatest regret: losing Vanessa. Does their past give him the right to interfere with her future?

14 comments:

  1. Beth, I've never heard it put exactly this way. Great advice. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Hi, Richard,
      Glad you liked my take on math. And Happy Birthday, by the way!

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  2. Beth, I love your 5+5+1. I have never done anything like that. I usually have a plan but this is really a good reminder to make sure you have it all in. And getting it into the first draft is better than having to add it later. :)

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    1. Ane, I've heard her say that she puts all this at the top of the page before she writes anything else. This helps combat writer's block, too. I just think this is a genius idea!

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    2. Hi, Ane: I do like to weave this into my first draft. I always add more as I rewrite, but at least I have some basic ideas to work with as I fast draft. It's a way of jumpstarting the creative process for me.

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  3. Love it. Just enough math - easy to remember. That's what I need!

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    1. Believe me, Jan, I would never overload you with math! :)

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  4. Advice I can put to use right away. Thanks, Beth!

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  5. This is great, Beth! I've saved this ... and thank you for sharing it.

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  6. Shelli:
    I know it works for me. Hope it helps you too! :)

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  7. Now this is a formula I can get behind. Thanks, Beth. I'm going to try this on my next manuscript.

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  8. Heidi, You've hung around me long enough to know that I keep my math basic. It works. :)

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