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5 Components of a Perfect Scene

A lot of writers sit down to write a scene with a general idea of what they want to have happen (action) in the story. But to create a perfect scene, you need to consider a whole lot more than that.

Novels are a string of scenes, so they need to connect together beautifully like a strand of pearls.

Of course every scene needs to serve a specific purpose in your story, and the type of scene should be determined by where the scene falls in a story and what type of action preceded. If your character just experienced something startling, this new scene needs to show her reaction or how she processes this new turn of events.

Some scenes are low energy, comtempletive scenes. Others are high energy, full of action and fast developments. But if most of your scenes are the same type, they’ll get tedious to readers. Be sure you learn what the ten key scenes are and how to fill in around those scenes with proper action-reaction. You can use my handy chart to help you lay out those scenes (but be sure to study Layer Your Novel).

5 Essential Components

Let’s say you know exactly what the purpose of your scene will be. You may have your protagonist’s best friend turn on him. You may want to introduce an accident or some violence to upend things. You may be bringing a love interest on stage, or have an ally try to stop your character from making a bad decision. Continue Reading…

Is Your Premise Worth Your Time (or Anyone Else’s)?

Most fiction writers are clear about the inciting incident or initial disturbance that has to come near the start of their novel. Yet, I see way too many novels in which there really isn’t a strong impacting incident. Or it’s in the wrong place.

I do many fifty-page critiques on novels that have fifty pages of setup. Backstory. Telling, for example, all about how the characters met, fell in love, got married, etc. What is the stated premise? It might be about a man who has something precious taken from him and must face danger and horror to get that thing back. Huh? What did the first fifty pages have to do with any of that? Nothing.

That inciting incident often isn’t there. I imagine it shows up at some point later, but that’s way too late. The inciting incident has to come at the start of the story. It launches the story. Catapults it. You don’t want your story sitting in that little catapult bucket for weeks just waiting for someone to hit the lever and send it flying.

A ship’s voyage begins when it’s launched. Not when it’s sitting dry-docked for weeks, waiting.

Every great story is about some character in his ordinary world that gets veered off in a new or specific direction due to some incident. Michael Hauge nicely calls this an opportunity. Life is moving along, and suddenly an opportunity presents itself, for good or ill—or both.

Whether it’s a parent’s kid getting kidnapped, a violent storm blowing into town, a ship of mutant dinosaurs or zombies that land on shore, or a young woman meeting a hot man, novels need that inciting incident to launch the premise. Continue Reading…

4 Ways to Bring Out Theme in Your Story

Theme is such an important element of story, regardless of medium. Even visual arts, such as paintings or sculture, tell a story and often center on some theme. Yet, you’ll find few blog posts or podcasts discussing what theme is in a story and how to showcase it.

I feel theme is so crucial to a great story that I chose it as one of the four corner pillars of novel construction. And while some novelists may argue that the genre they write in really doesn’t require themes (suspense/thriller, mystery, for example), for a deeper, richer story, themes are the ticket.

To get to the heart of the themes for your story, ask yourself questions:

  • Why I am passionate about this plot I’ve come up with?
  • What issues speak to my heart or upset me?
  • How can I have my characters embody these opinions or passions?
  • What kinds of conflicts in values, morals, beliefs, and ideas can my characters have that will enhance my premise?

Continue Reading…

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