Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fiction Writing 101: Lesson #3

Scenes

(Part of this lesson came from Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain.)

QUESTIONS:

Q: What is narrative writing? Also called narration?
A: Narrative writing is telling more than showing.
Example: [Once upon a time there were three little pigs.]

Q: WHAT IS A SCENE?
A: A scene is that part of a chapter, book or story that takes place as it happens, second by second, and gives the reader the feeling of actually being there. While narrative writing “tells,” a scene must “show.”
One way a scene shows rather than tells is by the use of dialogue. Example of dialogue:
[Three small pigs sat huddled together under a bridge, shivering and squealing from the rain and cold.
“I don’t know about you guys,” the first one said. “But I’m building me a house. I’ve had enough of being cold all the time.”
“What will you build it out of?” the second pig asked.
“Sticks. What else?”]

Dialogue is always enclosed in quotation marks.
(How are you) would look like this when written in dialogue.
“How are you?”
How are you, he asked, would look like this.
“How are you?” he asked.
I am fine, she replied—would look like this.
“I am fine,” she replied.

Q: WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A SCENE?
A: Goal
Conflict
Disaster

Q: WHAT COMES IMMEDIATELY AFTER A SCENE?
A: A sequel or a transition should follow a scene.

Q: WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A SEQUEL?
A: A sequel comes immediately after a scene, giving the main character the opportunity to reflect on what just happened in the story. A sequel also proves the reader with the opportunity to rest before going on to another scene.

Q: WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF A SEQUEL?
A: Reaction
Dilemma
Decision

Q: HOW LONG SHOULD A SCENE BE?
A: There are no strict answers, but I think a well-developed scene for an adult novel should contain from three to five typed, double-spaced pages. Scenes written for children and young people are shorter.

Q: HOW MANY SCENES SHOULD BE PUT IN A TWENTY-PAGE CHAPTER?
A: It depends on the type of book, but about three or less is about average.

Q: HOW SHOULD A SCENE BEGIN?
A: A scene should begin with a hook to capture reader interest. It should also begin with a setting to let the reader know where the action is taking place.
First settings should be fairly detailed whether introducing the reader to a new story or a new scene or the main character. After a particular setting has been well established, transitional phrases like the ones mentioned below can be substituted for more detailed settings. The purpose for both settings and transitions are to inform the reader as to where the action is taking place and to move the action to another location.

Q: Name some transitional phrases.
A: Three hours later---
When they arrived at ---
At the fair grounds, --
One year later ---

Q: HOW CAN I KNOW I'M READING OR WRITING A SCENE?
A: You will know you are reading or writing a scene if it contains a second by second account of an event and contains all three elements all scenes must have.
GOAL
CONFLICT
and ends in DISASTER for the main character.

ASSIGNMENT: Buy some index cards and a black marker. Prepare to write information on those cards and tack that information above your keyboard. It will really help.
What to write on the cards.

CARD ONE: Elements of a Scene
Goal
Conflict
Disaster

CARD TWO: Elements of a Sequel
Reaction
Dilemma
Decision

Not all scenes contain dialogue. We will discuss that in future lessons. We will also talk more about the elements of a scene and the elements of a sequel.

ASSIGNMENT #2:
Below is a scene from my newest novel, Sanctuary. Who is the point of view character in this scene?
This scene begins with a goal for the main character, contains conflict and ends in disaster for the main character.
Tell in one sentence what the goal of this scene is. In your second sentence, describe the conflict in the scene. Finally, write a third sentences and tell how the scene ended in disaster for the main character. Then click comment and post your answers.

SANCTUARY

First in the Faith of our Fathers series

Molly Noble Bull

Chapter One

Benoit, France
1740

“You do as you wish, Louis,” Pierre Dupre said to his brother. “But after the long walk from Paris, I want to stop and rest before going home. Mama and Henri will want to hear all about our journey, and I would like to get some sleep before I start telling our little brother tales of our adventures.”
“Could it be that my big brother is tired?” Louis asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“Yes.” Pierre yawned. “I admit it.” He stretched his tired muscles and yawned again.
Louis threw back his head and laughed. “Sleep if you want. I intend to pay Rachel’s parents a visit before going home. I plan to ask their permission to marry her.”
“Is it not a bit late to be making such a request? We sail in two weeks and you said you would marry Rachel aboard ship, yet you barely know her parents. They might resent the fact that you failed to step forward with your proposal sooner.”
“I will ask their forgiveness for the delay, of course. And I will also encourage them to sail to England with us. I fear Rachel will refuse to go at the last minute if we leave her mother and father behind.”
“Rachel is strong-willed and unpredictable,” Pierre said. “And she is always jumping to conclusions. However, she is also a good and faithful daughter. Were I wearing your shoes, Louis, I would have fears as well.”
They stood in front of the small stone cottage where Rachel and her parents lived. They hadn’t slept much since heading home. On the previous night, they seldom stopped to rest. Pierre doubted that Rachel’s parents would welcome his brother into their home after they discovered why he came, and he had no desire to hear her mother and father scold Louis for his tardiness.
Pierre noticed a large tree surrounded by bushes a short distance away. “I will wait for you under that tree. It will be cool and shady there.”
“As you wish.” Louis smiled. “And sleep well, brother. I will not be long.”
Pierre watched Louis walk up to the front door of the cottage and knock. He found a grassy spot under the tree. With his brown jacket as a pillow, he stretched out and went to sleep.

Pierre awoke to the rumble of horses’ hooves and men shouting. He crawled on his belly to a bushy area near the edge of the tall grass. A young captain in the king’s army kicked down the door of Rachel’s house. Soldiers swarmed inside.
He’d defended his younger brother for as long as he could remember and often fought his battles for him. But he saw at least thirty armed men and he with no weapons. Pierre wanted to hang his head in shame because he couldn’t do anything to help.
“Please, we are innocent!” he heard Louis shout out from inside the house.
Shattered, Pierre covered his mouth with his hands to keep from calling out in anger and despair.
“No!” he heard Rachel’s mother say. “Have mercy! Please!”
Tears filled the corners of his eyes as Pierre heard more shouting, screams, and then silence.
“No. No!”
“Take the trunk outside!” the captain shouted to his men.
As they dragged a trunk out the front door of the house, the captain stood on the lawn outside. Sunlight glinted on the metal buckle of his jacket. The shiny object mesmerized a shocked Pierre as the other soldiers brought out furniture, clothes, and other items.
A thin soldier came out wearing a blue dress that must have belonged to Rachel’s mother. He paraded around in it, swinging his hips and making distasteful gestures. Laughter echoed all around the soldier in the dress.
Pierre fought nausea.
The captain opened the trunk, spilling its contents on the ground. Letters and papers blew here and there. The captain picked up a candlestick. The metal caught the afternoon sun, sparkling brighter than the buckle. From a distance, Pierre couldn’t tell for sure but thought it might have been made of gold.
The expensive-looking object would hold half a dozen candles or more. He’d never seen a design quite like it.
The captain waved the candlestick in the air for all to see.
“This is a Menorah and can only belong to a Jew. It proves the people who lived in that house were Jews!”
The rest of the men gathered around the captain, looking at the candlestick. When they tried to touch it, the captain jerked it out of their reach.
“Two Huguenots from this village conspired against the government of France. We only found one. We must find the other man and the rest of the Jews and kill them.”
The captain raised the Menorah in the air as though it were a kind of battle flag. “I shall not rest until the deed is done! Now, gather up all the papers and anything else you think I might want later.”
As the soldiers began doing as they were told, the captain leaned over and picked up something from the ground. Pierre thought it looked about the size and shape of a small wooden frame. The captain pulled a white cloth from his pocket, wiped off the object, gazed at it for a long moment and tucked it inside his jacket.
“Burn this house to the ground,” the captain demanded, “as a warning to all Jews and Huguenots!”


3 comments:

Tyler said...

Isn't this a slight oversimplification of what a scene is? I mean, does a scene always have to end in disaster? I can think of plenty of examples in fiction with no disaster at the end.

Also, must it always end with a transition? It seems to me that dividing all this up into "scenes," "sequels," and "reaction, dilemma, decision" is taking all the spontaneity out of writing and making a formula for it.

I could be wrong, though, which is an entirely plausible explanation. I'm just a starting writer (and an unpublished one) so perhaps I haven't gotten the idea yet.

Cathy West said...

I don't think a scene necessarily has to end in disaster, but you must have some compelling reason for the reader to keep turning the pages of your book. Using methods like this one keep your story flowing and your ideas on track. I am a 'seat of the pants' writer and never plot anything out. Now that I'm more seasoned, I've learned that this isn't always a good thing. You should have a bare bones synopsis and plot for your story before you start writing it. Since I've started doing this, I've found the actually writing much easier because I know where I'm going. Sometimes the story takes on a life of it's own, which is fine, but you have to have some plumb line - a way to tie up all the loose ends and bring your book to a satisfying conclusion. I think you'll find most writers recommend using the above method.

Molly Noble Bull said...

Dear Tyler and Cathy,
Thanks for writing. Yes. All scenes MUST end in a disaster. Otherwise, they are not scenes at all. Next week will will discuss what I mean by a disaster. But I will give you a hint right now.
A disaster in a scene means the main character didn't reach his or her scene goal. If she was making dinner for her husband's boss and forgot to add salt to the stew, that's a disaster because she didn't reach her scene goal.
Until next time.
Love,
Molly
www.mollynoblebull.com