Tag Archive - first scene essentials

Using a Scene Template to Craft Perfect Scenes

Last week I introduced you to my scene template. I can’t emphasize enough how helpful it is to lay out all (or most) of your scenes before you start writing. Or if you’ve already written a rough draft, how useful it is to summarize each of your scenes in the scene template and look carefully at what you have.

Outlining your novel, scene by scene, is like crossing a bridge. On one side you have all your scene ideas in a jumble. On the other side is your complete novel that tells a beautiful, tight story. To get across that daunting chasm to the other side, you need to take one step after another, steady, strong, and purposeful. Each scene is a step to the finish line, and none should veer you in the wrong direction (over the railing into the brink!).

In addition to editing and critiquing manuscripts, I review scene outlines. Many of my clients have gone on to write terrific novels using this scene template. Some have me critique their outline crafted within the template. Others use the template to work out their scene details, then write a briefer scene outline with just one paragraph per scene (including the key points in their paragraphs).

I encourage you to have me go over your material and give you honest, constructive feedback so you can see how on track you are with your scene structure. Contact me so we can discuss! Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Martian

The Martian is a beautifully structured novel (and a terrific movie), and it draws readers right into the story on the first page. For those who saw the movie, you’ll notice the novel doesn’t begin the same way. It begins in a better way for a book because rather than focus on the plot events that lead up to Mark Watney being left behind on Mars, it gets you right where you need to be—in Mark’s head and hearing his voice.

The Martian is a great example of strong first-person character voice. Perhaps (to me) the most engaging and powerful element you can introduce on your first page is a compelling character.

Sure, it’s important to have that character be doing something that is interesting, but often first scenes start out with little happening, as we saw in the last two overviews (See Me and Flight Behavior). Neither of those novels had characters doing much other than thinking, and that’s not always easy to pull off well.

The challenge with that type of opening is to make the writing style and the character’s personality strong enough that they intrigue the reader without the need for dynamic action. Putting a “nonactive” character in a curious or dangerous predicament can also create that tension to hook readers. Continue Reading…

Scene Structure and Character Arc

Novels are about characters—characters who undergo significant change. Or, at least the protagonist should. A novel in which the protagonist doesn’t learn, grow, or change is a stagnant novel.

We write novels to take readers on a journey. Usually that is some kind of transformational journey. Readers want to go through the struggles and challenges the character faces and witness this transformation.

What’s a Character Arc Really About?

What am I talking about? Does a character have to have some huge revelation at the climax? Does he need to change his life? Transformation doesn’t have to be huge, and the scope and type of transformation can be influenced by genre. However, even with genres that focus predominately on action—dynamic plot developments—it can be said that those types of books will be better stories if they include some character transformation. Continue Reading…

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