Showing posts with label building scenes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label building scenes. Show all posts

Sunday, August 29, 2021

How to Write Vivid Scenes: Connecting Scenes

Check out Chris's Haunted Series:
The Ghost on the Stairs, The Knight in the Shadows,
The Riverboat Phantom,
and The Ghost Miner's Treasure


We welcome prolific author for children and adults, and editor, Chris Eboch, who has graciously agreed to share her three-part series of How to Write Vivid Scenes, from her book Advanced Plotting. Part 1 appeared last month: How to Write Vivid Scenes, Part 1. This month we present Part 2, and next month: How to Write Vivid Scenes: Cause and Effect.

Each Scene is a Mini-story with its Own Climax

Each scene should lead to the next and drive the story forward, so all scenes connect and ultimately drive toward the final story climax. 

A work of fiction has one big story question — essentially, will this main character achieve his or her goal? For example, in my children’s historical fiction novel The Eyes of Pharaoh, the main character hunts for her missing friend. The story question is, “Will Seshta find Reya?” In The Well of Sacrifice, the story question is, “Will Eveningstar be able to save her city and herself from the evil high priest?” 

In Desert Gold (written as Kris Bock), the big story question is, “Will Erin find the treasure before the bad guys do?” There may also be secondary questions, such as, “Will Erin find love with the sexy helicopter pilot?” but one main question drives the plot.

Throughout the work of fiction, the main character works toward that story goal during a series of scenes, each of which has a shorter-term scene goal. For example, in Erin’s attempt to find the treasure, she and her best friend Camie must get out to the desert without the bad guys following; they must find a petroglyph map; and they must locate the cave. 

You should be able to express each scene goal as a clear, specific question, such as, “Will Erin and Camie get out of town without being followed?” If you can’t figure out your main character’s goal in a scene, you may have an unnecessary scene or a character who is behaving in an unnatural way.

Yes, No, Maybe

Scene questions can be answered in four ways: Yes, No, Yes but…, and No and furthermore…. 

If the answer is “Yes,” then the character has achieved his or her scene goal and you have a happy character. That’s fine if we already know that the character has more challenges ahead, but you should still end the chapter with the character looking toward the next goal, to maintain tension and reader interest. Truly happy scene endings usually don’t have much conflict, so save that for the last scene.

If the answer to the scene question is “No,” then the character has to try something else to achieve that goal. That provides conflict, but it’s essentially the same conflict you already had. Too many examples of the character trying and failing to achieve the same goal, with no change, will get dull.

An answer of “Yes, but…” provides a twist to increase tension. Maybe a character can get what she wants, but with strings attached. This forces the character to choose between two things important to her or to make a moral choice, a great source of conflict. Or maybe she achieves her goal but it turns out to make things worse or add new complications. For example, in Desert Gold, the bad guys show up in the desert while Erin and Camie are looking for the lost treasure cave. The scene question becomes, “Will Erin escape?” This is answered with, “Yes, but they’ve captured Camie,” which leads to a new set of problems.

“No, and furthermore…” is another strong option because it adds additional hurdles — time is running out or your character has a new obstacle. It makes the situation worse, which creates even greater conflict. In my current work in progress, tentatively titled Whispers in the Dark (written as Kris Bock), one scene question is, “Will Kylie be able to notify the police in time to stop the criminals from escaping?” When this is answered with, “No, and furthermore they come back and capture her,” the stakes are increased dramatically.

One way or another, the scene should end with a clear answer to the original question. Ideally that answer makes things worse. The next scene should open with a new specific scene goal (or occasionally the same one repeated) and probably a review of the main story goal. Here’s an example from The Eyes of Pharaoh:

Scene question: “Will Seshta find Reya at the army barracks?”

Answer: “No, and furthermore, she thinks the general lied to her, so Reya may be in danger.”

Next scene: “Can Seshta spy on the general to find out the truth, which may lead her to Reya?”

Over the course of a novel, each end-of-scene failure should get the main character into worse trouble, leading to a dramatic final struggle. 

Next time: Cause and Effect

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. This essay is adapted from Advanced Plotting, available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback. Chris is the also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers. Learn more at https://chriseboch.com/ or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.


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.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Building Scenes with Renee Hand

Renee Hand is an award-winning author, educator, tennis coach and various other things. Hand has been writing for over twenty years and has six publications. She also writes for various chronicles and newsletters, as well as reviews for various authors of children´s books on her blog, http://thecryptocapersseries.blogspot.com.

Renee Hand's love for reading and writing started when she was a child. Renee always had a passion for it and remembers frequently wearing out the stone steps to the local library. When in a bookstore, she would sit in the middle of an aisle perusing a novel that she was eagerly going to purchase, but couldn’t wait to read. Often, when Renee has extra time, she will write stories that pop into her head...locking herself in her room for hours. Now that Renee is older, her love for reading and writing has not diminished. In fact, it has only become a bigger part of her. It is because of this that Renee chose to share her interests with other readers who love books as much as she does.

Building Scenes
I build scenes for all my books in similar ways— yet differently. My Crypto-Capers Series is more in depth, with much more history and suspense for the older readers, so I develop the scenes differently, keeping the readers interest well throughout the book to the very end, adding in more detail. Characters are more dynamic, problems more complicated, with various scenes, and so on. 

But for my Joe-Joe Nut series, because the audience is younger, I make things just as interesting and suspenseful, but much simpler. My chapters/scenes are separated by suspects, making it easier for the reader or teacher to stop and make predictions about what is going to happen next, or to discuss what has already happened.   

The beginning, of course, sets the stage for what the story is about, relaying the problem of the story to the reader. When I create a scene, I think about where I want the characters to go and what sends them there, or what I need them to do, or in this case—collect. 

In Mineral Mischief, someone steals Maple Moo’s rare mineral. All of the suspects collect a specific type of rock and mineral, plus they were all over at Maple Moo’s house before the crime was committed. It is Joe-Joe and Biscuits turn from there to talk to each suspect to determine who committed the crime and discover why they did it. Looking for clues, analyzing evidence, and so on.   

I throw in some misleads here and there. At the end, of course, the problem is solved, but never the way you think it might be. I like to throw a wrench in there to make things more exciting for my readers. All and all, though not entirely, this is how I build my scenes.

Stories for Children Publishing will be touring Renee Hand’s latest children’s book, “The Adventures of Joe-Joe Nut and Biscuit Bill Case #2 Mineral Mischief” all month long in April 2011. 

In Case #2 Mineral Mischief, Joe-Joe Nut and Biscuit Bill find themselves in a dark and dreary cave, and in front of them, sitting on an ornately carved stone pedestal, was Maple’s mineral. To reach out and take it would be so easy. It glistened like stars in a midnight sky, attracting their attention, luring them. However, there had to be a catch somewhere. Something didn’t feel right. Then he saw it. 




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