I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about writing scenes. Scenes are about change. If nothing changes, then there is no scene. That’s the basic definition of a scene, and one I learned from Holly Lisle. (If you’re not familiar with Holly’s site, check it out. She has some excellent free writing articles and excellent-value writing workshops there. It’s a writer’s treasure trove!)

A scene is about change, but what else? I had the deep certainty that there’s more to crafting a scene than I knew how to put into words. Instinctively I know when a scene is satisfying or not, and there are many writers whose work I enjoy, but they are also vastly different and what works in one genre, does not always work in another.

I did a bit of research and came across the terms scene and sequel or, as Evan Marshall calls them in his book Novel Writing: 16 Steps to Success, action scenes and reaction scenes. If you want to know more about scenes and sequels and the main differences between them, here are some links you may find useful:

Mike Kaassen on Scene and Sequel

Writing Hood – Lesson 13 on Scene and Sequel
How to Write a Novel in Six Months (Week 7 deals with scene and sequel)

From having read Robert McKee’s Story some years ago, I was also familiar with the concept of scene beats. Beats are small points of change in a scene that move the story forward. If you’d like to know more about beats, check out Scriptwriting in the UK (the theory applies to novel-writing too), or read Robert McKee’s book.

Today I was browsing a bookshop and came across Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld. Part 3 of the book includes chapters in which scenes are categorised into, for example, the first scene, suspense scenes, dramatic scenes, and contemplative scenes, among others.

This seems to be exactly what I was looking for, so I’m thrilled I came across it. Synchronicity at work. πŸ™‚

I finished reading Magic to the Bone by Devon Monk and, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it; mainly because of they way the scenes played out, but there were other reasons which I go into in my What I’m Reading blog.

The main problem I had with the scenes was that there was always something happening. The pace never slowed down. The main character, Allie, never thought very deeply about anything (mind you, she didn’t have much time to do so between one catastrophe and the next) which made her a very superficial character to read about. The story felt like a reckless and out of control roller coaster of a ride. The scenery whizzed by and I got out of the carriage wondering what on earth had just happened to me. In a nutshell, there weren’t enough sequels in my opinion. A character who thinks too much and doesn’t act slows the pace of the story and is very boring to read about. I agree with that; but a sequel does not have to be boring and make the reader skip to the next piece of action. The internal struggle they face is a conflict, and what goes on inside a character and the decision they come to as a result will play out in the next (action) scene. Sequels are important. A reader needs to slow down in order to reflect on the story so far and discover what the main character is going to do next (which they will either agree or disagree with) and then read on to see how that works out for them.

In conclusion, then, knowing the different components of a scene and learning how to put them together in a powerful way, bearing in mind what I’m trying to accomplish with the scene, is very important.

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As for my progress with Greenwood Manor, I can see the end in sight. I have finished my ghost’s backstory and the conclusion to that story. I’ve discovered that there is a parallel between her and my heroine, Katherine, that I never suspected existed until I sat down and let the ghost tell her story in her own words. I had not planned to include the ghost’s story in the novel, but she has a very strong voice and it would be a pity not to let the reader hear it, especially as there is such a huge parallel between these two characters.

Tomorrow I’ll be concentrating on the scene with Dr Sterling and Katherine where she goes to him to explain what she was doing in the park with another man…

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