Tag Archive - scene structure

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…

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…

How Writers Can Benefit by Outlining Their Scenes

We’re been taking a look at outlining scenes these last couple of weeks. Using my scene structure checklist, we’ve been seeing what elements are so necessary in scenes to ensure their structure is sound and they have all that’s needed to engage readers.

We’re in an age of “show, don’t tell,” and that means scenes are going to be packed full of action and dialogue and, well, showing instead of telling.

While many writers like to wing it, just writing off the cuff and creating scenes will only make revision harder in the long run. Scenes are the building blocks of a novel, and those who “pants” their way through scene writing will end up with a novel that is flawed structurally. Yes, this is just my opinion, one that I share with the top writing instructors and bloggers around. And I feel passionately about this.

You might argue that some very successful novelists, like Stephen King, are pantsers. But keep in mind, authors with decades of experience in writing dozens of novels usually have scene and novel structure hardwired into their brain. Just as with playing pro ball or snowboarding, once you become an expert, you don’t have to remind yourself what to do.

I’ve edited and critiqued countless manuscripts. I go through more than two hundred partial and full manuscripts a year. Most of them need a prodigious amount of work to get the structure solid. And most of those manuscripts have been carefully plotted and/or outlined. You can imagine what the unplotted manuscripts are like.  Continue Reading…

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