Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What's a Scene Anyway? Part Two

Good morning! It’s Ask O Wednesday. Last week we featured part one of a look at writing in scenes. My first tip was to ask, “How will this fit into a scene?” Second, “Think chronologically.” This week we’ll finish up with three more keys to creating compelling scenes. Enjoy!

Third, don’t forget conflict. Once I know what’s going to happen, I make sure to pile on the stress. A scene is nothing without it! Asking what the character wants and why she can’t have it helps to formulate conflict into images, actions, and dialogue.

Fourth, climb to a climax. I like to draw a triangle for the scene. The tip of the triangle is when everything changes—my heroine overcomes the obstacle and gets what she wants … or (even better) she doesn’t get what she wants but must figure out a way to reach her goal in a different way. It could be an external event, like a whale crashing into her kayak (my next book is about Alaska), an internal struggle, like doubting she’ll ever fit in among the other Alaskan homestead wives, or a combination of both external and internal.

In a book I just started reading, The Preacher’s Bride, author Judy Hedland does a great job opening her book with a compelling scene. A baby boy struggles to survive, and the heroine risks breaking social norms to try to save him. The tension rises as she attempts to reach the child--leading to the climax. The turning point comes when the overbearing woman who’s in charge forces our heroine to leave the room--and the child is still in danger. She fails to achieve her goal. It’s an unsatisfying climax, but it made me want to keep reading to find out how the heroine will overcome it …

Finally, provide relief. The climax isn’t the end of the scene (although it can be the end of a chapter—breaking at the climax leaves a suspenseful end that will make readers stay up for “just one more chapter.”) We still need that satisfying resolution. Even if it’s not a happy resolution, it needs to makes sense and release the tension created by the climax.

In the scene I mentioned above from The Preacher's Bride even though the heroine couldn’t accomplish her task at that time, a few moments later she devised a plan to work around the overbearing woman in order to help the baby. This provided relief and resolution. “Phew. The baby’s going to be all right.”

Time to move on to the next exciting scene.

So you see, writing in scenes provides a satisfying framework for our stories. Let me know how these tips work in your writing. And don’t forget to leave your questions in the comments or at my website, Let me know what you’d like to discuss. Ask O!

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