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Scene Structure: Scenes as Segments and Capsules of Time

For this week’s Throwback Thursday, we’re looking at excerpts from past posts on Live Write Thrive that tie in with our exploration on scene structure.

From Show, Don’t Tell—But How?

Sol Stein, in his book Stein on Writing, says, “Twentieth-century readers, transformed by film and TV, are used to seeing stories. The reading experience for a twentieth-century reader is increasingly visual. The story is happening in front of his eyes.” This is even more true in the twenty-first century. As literary agent and author Donald Maass says in Writing 21st Century Fiction: “Make characters do something that readers can visualize.”

We’ve heard it countless times: show, don’t tell. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. There are a myriad of choices a writer has to make in order to “show” and not “tell” a scene. Writers are often told they need to show, which in essence means to create visual scenes the reader can “watch” unfold as they read. Continue Reading…

First Pages of Best-Selling Novels: The Time Traveler’s Wife

This week, in our examination of first pages of best-selling novels, we’re taking a look at Audrey Niffenegger’s very creative and complex novel The Time Traveler’s Wife. This novel has been called a romance, a magical realism novel, fantasy. It’s a hybrid of many genre elements, and while that often poses a big problem for targeting a reading market, the strong premise and clever structure transcend the usual barriers to drawing in readers.

We’re using my first-page checklist to go through the author’s first page to see why it effectively draws the reader quickly into the story. While novels don’t have to have every one of these checklist elements on the first page, usually the more they do have, the stronger the opening.

Of course, the plot and premise of a novel is going to come into play here. Genre also influences what kind of opening scene will work best for a story. While there are a lot of ways an author might begin, regardless of genre, plot, and premise, opening pages need to grab readers’ attention and keep them reading.

Niffenegger breaks some of the “rules” of opening scenes, as do many big-selling best sellers. As you may have noticed in this series so far, this seems common. Those opening pages are crafted creatively to draw readers quickly into the story situation, full of mystery and/or conflict. She spent five years writing this novel, and, not surprisingly, she wrote the scenes out of order, beginning with the ending. This kind of story lends itself to being written that way!

Similar to Gone Girl, this novel alternates between two characters’ points of viewthose of husband and wife, in first persongiving readers a close personal look at dual protagonists and their core needs and inner conflict. The result is a heavy emotional ride, and in this novel the circumstance of Henry’s condition is the source of all emotion, conflict, and plot development. Continue Reading…

Breaking Down Scene Structure into 3 Parts

It may seem simplistic to say that scenes are basically mini novels, with a beginning, middle, and end. But this is a simple and helpful way to look at scenes. The main difference is that your scene endings aren’t the end of your story but a specific way to hook the reader into reading further.

That word hook should tell you something. Yes, your scene ending needs just as strong a hook as the beginning. What you want more than anything is for a reader who is thinking of taking a break from your book (“I’ll just read to the end of the chapter and then stop”) to be unable to put your book down upon finishing a scene. The last lines of the scene hook her, then as she begins the next scene, she’s hooked again. Pulled further into your story, like a fish on a line.

What’s the bait on the hook? Your promise to deliver. Continue Reading…

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