Archive - Nailing Scene Structure RSS Feed

Scenes as Capsules of Time

We’ve been looking at scene structure for a couple of months now. My aim is to help you nail this so you’ll never write a weak scene ever again. So in this post we’re going to talk about capsules. If you wrap your mind around this concept, you’ll be way ahead of the game.

The best scenes are enclosed in capsules of time. What does that mean? That you begin your scene in a specific, clearly identified moment in time and you move forward some “screen time” minutes, then end.

Picture a movie scene. With most scenes, unless it includes a flashback or some creative device, you are watching real time action. A character gets out of his car, runs across the highway, scoops up the terrified dog, runs back to his car, throws the dog into the backseat, then gets into his seat, shuts the door, and heaves a big sigh.

That might be a complete movie scene segment. Maybe it takes thirty seconds to watch from beginning to end. If the director wanted to heighten the tension more (for a specific reason), that scene might take two minutes to watch, with viewers biting every nail to the nub in fear for that dog’s life. Continue Reading…

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…

Page 17 of 23« First...10«1516171819»20...Last »