Let’s talk a bit about writing today, shall we?
I’ve been working on an exercise for a master class Kansas SCBWI will be hosting in May. I wrote paragraphs summarizing each scene in my novel.
That was a lot of frickin’ scenes.
I haven’t even had the class yet, but I can tell you a few things I’ve learned about scene just from doing the exercise.
In every scene:
- Something has to happen–Sounds like a “duh” statement, doesn’t it? But how many books have you read that drone on and on and on with nothing happening except the polishing of the author’s ego? You might get away with that in adult literature, but not kidlit. Your reader will toss you so fast you’ll be in the remainder bin before you can say “Pulp me, baby.”
- The story has to advance–Plot must be propelled forward. It’s not enough to have noise and chaos, there’s got to be purpose. How are you going to get to the end if you don’t point your compass and go? Meandering does not intrigue, it BORES YOUR READER TO DEATH. Remember when your great-uncle would tell you a story about fighting in muddy, rat-infested trenches in World War I and then your great-grandmother would interrupt to say, “While you were off in Gay Paree I was home rolling bandages. I’d take the train to the Red Cross Center. Cousin Wally drove a yellow car but he wrecked it when he got drunk one night and drove through Frank and Lana’s Dry Goods. Calico everywhere, I tell you…” Yeah. Same thing.
- The characters should reveal themselves–Every word characters utter and action they execute reveals information about them. Do not squander these tools.
- There has to be a climax–Not only does the novel have a story arc, not only does the chapter have a story arc, but the scene has a story arc too. I know. It’s ridiculous, but true. I could hardly believe it myself. Look in one of your most dramatic scenes. Note the rising action. Then spot the point where things come to a head–and afterward, the tension ebbs. Yup. Climax. Make your own jokes.
OMG! WRITING IS SO COMPLICATED! I QUIT!
Who said that? Don’t say that.
Human beings are natural story tellers. For the most part, IF YOU WRITE AND WRITE AND WRITE, you will fall into a rhythm of writing scenes in story arcs.
Sometimes it’s good to study what you’re doing right, even if it comes to you naturally. Because sometimes you screw up, and how are you going to know how to fix it if you don’t know what you’re doing in the first place?