Tag Archive - scenes

Writing Mechanics: Scene Structure as a Mini Novel

This month we wrap up our yearlong look at the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing. Editor Rachel Starr Thomson opens up our look at Fatal Flaw #12: Flawed Writing Mechanics. We’ll be looking at the bigger picture regarding our fiction, and Rachel begins with a look at scene structure.

Way back in month 2 of this series, we talked about the need to open scenes in the right place. The general rule is to open in media res—that is, while something is happening. On the other hand, it’s generally best to bow out while things are still happening: close the dinner conversation with the last line of dialog, not after everyone has fallen silent, gotten up from the table, washed the dishes, and gone to bed.

To put that succinctly: “Come late; leave early.”

We’ve also looked at various elements of a great scene: action, pacing, description, dialog, POV, the many ways to show and not just tell your story.

But as our yearlong series wraps up this month, we’re going to take a step back and look at scenes as a whole. We’ll be paying some attention to genre and how certain genres call for certain writing styles.

This week, I want to kick things off by discussing the all-important structure of a scene. Continue Reading…

Fiction’s Magic Ingredient: The Scene

Today I’m breaking my tradition and hosting a guest blogger as we explore the topic of scene structure. Jordan Rosenfeld—novelist, writing instructor and editor—teaches extensively on scene structure, and I’ve been using her definition of a scene in these posts on this fifth pillar of novel construction: Plot and Subplots in a String of Scenes. She’s the author of Make a Scene, the best book available on scene structure, which I highly recommend all novelists buy and study carefully.

Scenes—those little capsules of action, information, and setting, are more than just a dull little way to practice “show don’t tell” in your writing. There’s a reason I refer to them as “fiction’s magic ingredient” when I teach: without scenes all you have is a lot of throat-clearing narrative, characters ruminating, and fancy words that gaze back adoringly at themselves like Narcissus of the Greek myths. Continue Reading…

Mastering the Passing of Time in Novel Scenes

Scene structure is an essential concept writers must grasp in order to construct solid, fluid novels. I chose that word fluid because I feel readers want something akin to a smooth read. I don’t mean specifically a linear story in which every moment passes in time the same way. I mean the story being told is easy to follow because the scenes string together in a clear flow of time, each giving the sense of real time passing, right here, right now.

This may be a tricky concept for some to grasp, so bear with me a bit. I’ve written some posts in the past on showing time passing in novels. In a film, there are lots of techniques available to the screenwriter and filmmaker to make time appear to slow down or speed up. But not so easy to do with a novel.

Novelists have to use creative ways of wording to show these same effects. But scenes, essentially, are all about showing significant action happening in real time—the way time passes for us as we go through our lives. The variable, however, is linked to the POV character who is experiencing and showing the scene through her eyes. Continue Reading…

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