Thursday, May 28, 2015

Have You Seen a Scene Around Here? Scene Writing 101

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today, we're gonna talk about scene writing. Every book is a collection of scenes, so getting this part right is kind of a must. Grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First off, understand that every scene has three basic parts: An opener, a middle, and a conclusion.

A chapter, while still made up of those same parts, usually doesn't contain just one scene.

Let me break a scene down for you. We'll use a tidbit from my section of Fractured Glass with Elba and Diego.

Color coding is as follows: Green = Scene Open, Red = Scene Middle, Blue = Scene End

As he walked down the hall, he pondered how she got in without setting off the alarm, and wondered if she was dangerous. Logically, he’d rather have her in the foyer than his room. After shuffling some things around, he grabbed the book, spun around, and walked right into her. “How—”

She grabbed his hand and took two steps backward.

Air like an arctic blast hit him in the face. He shivered and his teeth chattered even as his eyes scanned the area. “Whoa. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Walls that were once a dark blue had become rough rock. To the left, where the door used to be, there was an opening with jagged protrusions all around. He felt his jaw drop as he took in the landscape. Purple skies, bright yellow mountains, and green clouds greeted his eyes.

She snatched the journal out of his hand. “You don’t even have the beginnings of a grasp on the amount of danger those girls are in.”

“Where are we? How’d we get here? How do you know what happened? And what do you mean by ‘danger’?”

Her eyes widened, and she stuck out her hand. “I’ll show you. If you’re brave enough to come with me.”

Diego put a clammy hand in hers. “Brave? Lady, I’m like a lion. Are we going back to my house now?”

Super white teeth flashed from between her lips. “Not yet. There’s something you need to see.” She took another two steps backward.

They were in a cave—much like the previous one—only the air was warm.

He jerked his hand away, and the crazy woman disappeared. Fear clawed at his throat when a deep rumble echoed in the small space. “Hello? Where’d you go?” A scaly blue tentacle slithered from the shadows and moved over the floor in a sweeping motion. Dust and debris kicked up, forming a small cloud of particles.

Sweat beaded on his forehead as he backed toward the cave’s entrance. “Um, hello? Crazy lady? A little help here?”

Inch by agonizing inch, the thing connected to the leg came into view. It seemed to have no skeleton, rather like an octopus, but it was flat as a pancake. Once it fully emerged, he saw the teeth. He looked back and considered jumping to his death rather than being torn apart by the razor sharp incisors grinding together less than twelve feet from his position. Choices raced through his brain, and he wiped his palms on his jeans.

A sheer drop was on one side, the monster, slowly oozing its way across the floor, was on the other.

“Help!” he yelled.

Quick as a flash, the thing searching for him launched itself across the cave.

He put his hands over his head and prepared for the impact.

There was a pulling sensation on his arm, and the scene changed again. This time, he found himself waist-deep in a pond with the woman’s hand around his bicep.

For the water, he was grateful; it washed away the evidence of his fear. Anger replaced the cloying feeling present a moment before. His face was cold, and he knew he was as white as his skin could turn. Gesturing at the sky, he let his rage take over. “Where the hell did you go? That thing almost ate me!”

“I didn’t realize you’d pulled away from me. We have to keep touching or you can’t traverse the fractals with me.”

“Fractals? Lady, you’ve lost your mind! How do I get home?” Again, his teeth were chattering, but it wasn’t cold.

“Oh my. You seem to be in shock. Okay, I’ll take you home. But we can’t go back the way we came. Thanks to you, that thing in the next world over will be waiting for us. My name is Elba, by the way. You can stop calling me lady, crazy lady, and creepy lady now.”

Diego felt his face get warm. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it. I’ve been called worse.”

Something slithered along his leg under the murk. “Um, whatever we’re gonna do, can we do it fast?” Images of the same creature he’d just encountered being able to swim gripped him in a fist of iron. His whole body shook harder.

She smiled. “I’m working on it.” Her journal was in her hand, and she was turning it this way and that.

Another creature touched his calf, sending tingles up his leg. “I don’t mean to interrupt again, but I think something just stung me.”

“I doubt it. These are glooshna eels. They’re only put into a feeding frenzy by urine. You’ll be fine.”

“Actually…”

Her hand collided with her forehead before she slammed the book closed, grabbed his wrist, and pulled him along after her.

They turned left, climbed the embankment, and ran ten steps, then right for two steps, before the scenery changed again.

She pointed to the left. “That’s the cave you were just in.”

High up on the side of an electric green mountain, the squishy creature could be seen dangling from the hole where Diego almost met his demise. He squinted at it. “What’s it doing?”

“Shh! We certainly don’t want it to know we’re down here. Those things are fast.”

He rubbed his hand on the back of his jean shorts. “Tell me about it.”

Again, they moved forward. But this time they went fifteen steps before the scene changed. Purple skies and yellow mountains greeted them.

“This is way weird.” All the hair on his neck stood up. “Is there anything here that can eat us?”

Elba grinned. “Always assume there’s something that wants to eat you. It’s the only way you and your little friends will survive.”

He gulped.

“Now, we have to climb up to that cave so I can guarantee we end up back in your room.” She stuffed the book in her knapsack and began the ascent. By the time they reached the top, he was panting.

Grabbing his hand, she pulled him two steps forward.

They were back in his bedroom.

Diego collapsed and kissed the carpet. “So good to be back home.”

“All right, kid. Go clean up, change, and meet me in the kitchen. We need to talk.” Laughing, she strode from the room, pivoted in the hallway, and disappeared.

Rolling over, Diego lay on the soft floor, allowing himself a moment. “We need to talk.” He mimicked her gravelly voice. “You bet we do. But, this time, you’re giving me answers.”

No, this isn't the whole chapter; it's actually the second scene from the beginning of section 2 (my section of the book).

I used the five W's: Who, What, When, Where, Why.

This scene serves a huge purpose in introducing the reader to the fractals. Without this adventure, the story would be beyond confusing from here out as the characters traverse the parallel worlds.

Your beginning should set up for the action.
Then, you have the exciting part, where you get to kill people or heighten tension.
At the end, you should be preparing the reader for a transition to the next scene and leave a question or two open that needs to be answered (why should I keep reading?).

So, I answered the most basic question: Is it necessary?

Always ask yourself that when you're doing your edit. A lot of times, a scene can be cut and it not impact the overall story. Talking about what the character is seeing every other scene gets boring. Seek and destroy those dragging visuals when necessary.

When it doubt, cut it out.

Once you've identified the scenes, you can use this post to measure the pace of your entire novel. Pretty cool, huh?

This section gets a score of: Beginning = 72.6, Middle = 86.9, End = 87.5. Not bad pacing. Nice high there at the end.

What do you think? Have you ever broken down a scene like this?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!

Jo

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