Tuesday, July 27, 2021

How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part I, by Chris Eboch

Prolific children's and adult author, Chris Eboch

Author/editor Chris Eboch has her foot in two worlds: children’s literature, as Chris Eboch and M. M. Eboch, and as Kris Bock, in adult literature. Chris has written over sixty books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Chris’s books on writing, You Can Write for Children, and Advanced Plotting, and posts on her blogspot, Write Like a Pro! A Free Online Writing Workshop, are chock full of down-to-earth advice for authors interested in honing their craft. Chris has been a member of SCBWI-NM for many years, has served as Regional Advisor, and currently serves in a new capacity as Published Authors Coordinator. Chris takes an active part in helping fellow authors succeed. We are very fortunate to have her. Read more about Chris in my WOTM February 2019 post: "Writing Tips from Author Chris Eboch", and in my June 2020 post, “Felany Melanie: Prequel to the movie Sweet Home Alabama.

During the next three months, Chris will be sharing her expertise on “How to Write Vivid Scenes,” information that has helped me personally with my craft.  

How to Write a Vivid Scene

In fiction writing, a scene is a single incident or event. However, a summary of the event is not a scene. Scenes are written out in detail, shown, not told, so we see, hear, and feel the action. They often have dialog, thoughts, feelings, and sensory description, as well as action. 

A scene ends when that sequence of events is over. A story or novel is, almost always, built of multiple linked scenes. Usually the next scene jumps to a new time or place, and it may change the viewpoint character. 

Think in terms of a play: The curtain rises on people in a specific situation. The action unfolds as characters move and speak. The curtain falls, usually at a dramatic moment. Repeat as necessary until you’ve told the whole story.

So how do you write a scene?

  • Place a character — usually your main character — in the scene. 
  • Give that character a problem.
  • Add other characters to the scene as needed to create drama.
  • Start when the action starts — don’t warm up on the reader’s time.
  • What does your main character think, say, and do?
  • What do the other characters do or say?
  • How does your main character react?
  • What happens next? Repeat the sequence of actions and reactions, escalating tension.
  • Build to a dramatic climax.
  • End the scene, ideally with conflict remaining. 

Scene Endings

Scene endings may or may not coincide with chapter endings. Some authors like to use cliffhanger chapter endings in the middle of a scene and finish the scene at the start of the next chapter. They then use written transitions (later that night, a few days later, when he had finished, etc.) or an extra blank line to indicate a break between scenes within a chapter.

Give the reader some sense of what might happen next — the character’s next goal or challenge — to drive the plot forward toward the next scene. Don’t ramble on after the dramatic ending, and don’t end in the middle of nothing happening.

A Scene Can Do Several Things

  • Advance the plot.
  • Advance subplots.
  • Reveal characters (their personalities and/or their motives).
  • Set the scene.
  • Share important information.
  • Explore the theme.

Ideally, a scene will do multiple things. It may not be able to do everything listed above, but it should do two or three of those things, if possible. It should always, always, advance the plot. Try to avoid having any scene that only reveals character, sets the scene, or explores the theme, unless it’s a very short scene, less than a page. Find a way to do those things while also advancing the plot. 

A scene often includes a range of emotions as a character works towards a goal, suffers setbacks, and ultimately succeeds or fails. But some scenes may have one mood predominate. In that case, try to follow with a scene that has a different mood. Follow an action scene with a romantic interlude, a happy scene with a sad or frightening one, a tense scene with a more relaxed one to give the reader a break. 

Don’t rush through a scene — use more description in scenes with the most drama, to increase tension by making the reader wait a bit to find out what happens. Important and dramatic events should be written out in detail, but occasionally you may want to briefly summarize in order to move the story forward. For example, if we already know what happened, we don’t need to hear one character telling another what happened. Avoid that repetition by simply telling us that character A explained the situation to character B. 

Avoid scenes that repeat previous scenes, showing another example of the same action or information. Your readers are smart enough to get things without being hit over the head with multiple examples. If you show one scene of a drunk threatening his wife, and you do it well, we’ll get it. We don’t need to see five examples of the same thing. Focus on writing one fantastic scene and trust your reader to understand the characters and their relationship. For every scene, ask: Is this vital for my plot or characters? How does it advance plot and reveal character? If I cut the scene, would I lose anything?

Next month: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes, by Chris Eboch

Visit Chris at: www.chriseboch.comhttps://www.krisbock.com/; and her Amazon page:  https://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/ .


Tall Boots by Linda Wilson,
illustrated by 1000
Storybooks, will be
available on Amazon
next month
Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher, has published over 150 articles for children and adults, several short stories for children, and her first book, Secret in the Stars: An Abi Wunder Mystery, which is available on Amazon. Publishing credits include biosketches for the library journal, Biography Today, which include Troy Aikman, Stephen King, and William Shatner; PocketsHopscotch; and an article accepted by Highlights for ChildrenSecret in the Mist, the second in the Abi Wunder series, is coming soon. Follow Linda on 
https://www.lindawilsonauthor.com.

5 comments:

Terry Whalin said...

Linda,

Thank you for the wise and experienced writing advice from Chris Eboch built into this article. I lerned a great deal.

Terry

lastpg said...

That's great, Terry. Chris is very knowledgeable and a wonderful person!

Karen Cioffi said...

Linda, thanks for sharing writing tips on creating a vivid scene with Chris Eboch. The information in A Scene Can Do Several Things is very helpful!

Karen Cioffi said...

Oh, I shared but forgot to @ you!

lastpg said...

Thank you, Karen. Your input is always appreciated.

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