Tag Archive - scene structure

How to Hook Readers and Reel Them into Your Scenes

We toss around the word hook when we talk about stories. What’s the hook? we ask. Sometimes we’re talking about the overall premise: what component to the story idea is unique, compelling, intriguing. Othertimes we’re talking about the first few lines of a novel (or first line) that is to be crafted in a way to grab readers and make them want to read more.

But that’s not all the hooks we need. We’re on the hook for coming up with great openings for every scene we write. Sure, novels don’t have a killer first-line hook for every scene, but we certainly want to open each scene strong.

That usually means ditching explanation and backstory and dull description of place and weather. Instead, a more effective way to hook readers into a scene is to consider these things:

  • The tone or mood you need to set that implies the POV character’s state of mind and emotion.
  • The situation you can insert your character into that is already underway in an interesting manner (in other words, don’t start scenes with your character waking up, then brushing his teeth, then getting dressed, for example).
  • Some element of mystery or microtension that creates curiosity.

Sure, a catchy first line or paragraph is helpful to hook readers, but you can’t always be that snappy with every scene opening, nor would it be a good idea. Continue Reading…

Keys to Moving Your Plot Forward

I tell writers often they are failing to “advance their plot.” What does that mean, and why does it matter?

I keep seeing novels that “land on my desk” that start off with a great situation but then veer off into the hinterlands. Other novels don’t even get out the gate. The opening scenes seem to have nothing to do with the premise of their story. I’ll go back and reread a synopsis and shake my head. Where is the premise setup? Who exactly is the protagonist?

This is such a problem that I’m going to share some points from a post I wrote two years ago on the topic.

If your scenes aren’t “advancing the plot,” you have a serious problem.

Each scene should reveal some new information, but not just anything—the information needs to help move the plot forward. The bottom line? Every scene must have a point to it or it shouldn’t be in your novel. Continue Reading…

Start the New Year with a Comprehensive Scene Outline

I wrote this post a year ago, and since I did this series on scene outlines, I’ve had dozens of writers over 2017 hire me to critique their outlines.

What have I seen? That writers who take the time to do a thorough scene outline, and who study books like Layer Your Novel, to ensure they what scenes are needed in a novel and where they go, end up with extremely well-structured novels. That is, after they have me critique them.

A lot of the outlines I work on are a mess. Writers need a lot of help, a lot of direction. Even if you know basically what scenes will make up a strong story, it’s still not easy to tell if you have all you need and in the right places. And it helps to have someone else take a look and throw suggestions at you, ways to make your story better.

That’s what the scene outline critique is all about. So I’d like to encourage you to get a scene outline critique. Read on and learn what this is all about. Also do a search on my blog for “scene outline” and you’ll see a lot of other posts that will help you.

Hire me. I charge by the hour, and I feel this is the best use of your money. You’ll get a lot of help for a small cost. Why spend thousands of dollars on a full critique that may tell you, in essence, that your structure is a mess and you need to round file the whole project?

I’m all about saving time! Continue Reading…

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