Friday, February 19, 2010

Three Scene Writing Secrets

I received an email this week which included the below writing tips called A Recipe for Scenes. Reading this served as a great reminder as I'm wrapping up some of the final chapters for my novel that's due next month. The email was from I decided to share these tips today, sort of sampling the info so to speak. I hope you find them helpful:

A Recipe for Scenes

Like a recipe, each scene is going to require different quantities of the ingredients that comprise it, depending on the intention of the scene and the goals of the novel you are writing. To this end, scene writing is simply a breaking down of the different craft elements and an understanding of the way in which they intertwine. Many of you might simply rely on your writer's intuition to accomplish this balance, but for those of use who struggle with the "how much is too much" conundrum, it's important to provide a clear checklist of what a scene should contain:

Secret One - Action:
This is perhaps the most fundamental element of a scene. Something has to happen. And that something has to compel the eyeballs to scan to the end of each and every sentence. Scenes function a bit as a chain reaction; one scene builds upon another, upon another, upon another until we get a full sense of the world inside your novel. How is the action of this scene related to the overarching plot of your novel?

Secret Two - Characters and their baggage:
By characters, I don't simply mean flat, two-dimensional characters. They must have a complex history, desires, and motivations. And by baggage, I mean that your characters must have histories and desires; they must want something—both in the short-term (the scene) and the long-term (the novel/story). What understanding of the character will the reader take away from the scene that will help them decipher the rest of your novel?

Secret Three - Text/Subtext:
Hemingway once said, "I always try to write on the principle of the iceberg. There is seven-eighths of it underwater for every part that shows." What he means is that if what you've written is written carefully, you're reader will be able to read further into your story, beyond what is immediately written. The adage "less is more" is useful when writing your scenes. Don't give too much away; practice the art of subtlety.

These might appear to be basic to some authors, but even basic principles bear repeating. Feel free to share any scene writing tips you've learned along the way.

Happy Writing!


Farrah Rochon said...

Thanks for this reminder, Marissa. You're right, sometimes, an author has to be reminded about the basics of writing. These are great tips.

Good luck with those final chapters!

Jewel Amethyst said...

Thanks for the tips Marissa. Sometimes we get so caught up in the obvious of the story, we forget the intricacies of scene plotting.

When your scenes have depth, readers take away from it even things the authors themselves didn't realize they plotted into those scenes. It makes for a better reading experience, hence more interesting book.

Liane Spicer said...

Thanks for the reminder, Marissa. 1 and 2 are pretty basic, as you said, but I find 3 especially relevant as I always have to guard against overwriting.