A Novel in 3 Months (week 5) – writing that scene

Last thing watched: Grey’s Anatomy
on the iPod: All or Nothing by Cher

Tom Clancy was once quoted as saying: “The difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” 😀  So let’s talk about the scene you’re writing right now.  Whatever it’s about, it should have both a purpose and make sense.   And the important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Does this scene advance the story forward?
  • Does it answer or  raise a question?
  • Does it reveal character or plot that the reader (and/or other characters) needs to know right now?
  • Does it create tension?
  • Can it be amalgamated with another scene and still achieve the same result?

Apart from chapter 1, scene 1, I like writing dialogue.  Loooove writing dialogue, in fact 😀  So in my wip, when my h/h sit down to dinner, you can bet there’s gonna be some dialogue happening.  I don’t actually map out the scene, but if I had to, here’s what it’d be like:

  • scene opens – dinner in hotel restaurant
  • VP – both, starting with hero, ending with heroine
  • scene reveals – part of heroine’s past and beliefs to hero; heroine is aware hero wants her
  • scene ends – kiss at heroine’s door
  • scene purpose – up emotional tension, reveal character

I ask myself with each and every scene: “What is this character’s agenda?”  What do they want to achieve from this?  Do they get it?  If not, why not?  And how does this change the course of the story?  With my scene above, the hero’s agenda was to convince the heroine to go on a date.  The heroine’s agenda was to remain professional and keep control of her growing attraction for hero.   And importantly, what occurs prior to this scene is setting the stage for what’s to happen in this one… and the next.  And the next.  It’s a build up, where characters can gain or lose some minor goals but with ultimately the major goal to be addressed towards the last scene/s of the book.  This way, your reader will still be invested in your story.   For e.g. Indiana Jones achieves many minor goals in Raiders of the Lost Ark :  he has the medallion translated, he finds the Map Room,  then the Well of Souls, discovers Marion’s alive.  These are all minor goals that  feed into his one big goal – to get the Ark of the Covenant.  Similarly, Luke Skywalker finds Ben Kenobi, they get transport out of Mos Eisley, he rescues Princess Leia.  All minor goals that feed into his one big goal – defeat the Empire.

Think cause and effect to help with the ending of your scene, to get you onto the next scene logically.  Ages ago I read a great article by the wonderful Keri Arthur on Plotting the Paranormal which applies to all genres, really.  Not only did it make a whole lot of sense but it also helped enormously with my story direction.   For example:  you’re writing a scene where your heroine comes home from work one day to discover someone’s broken into her apartment and stolen her great-grandmother’s necklace. What does she do?

  • get a dog
  • get the locks changed
  • hire a bodyguard
  • move in with her mother
  • ask the cute retired cop down the hall to watch the place
  • track the guy down herself
  • curse, file a police report then do nothing else

Whatever direction you take, it should take you closer to your ultimate goal of your story.  For a romantic suspense,  the bodyguard or cop scenario would work.  A chick lit or romantic comedy?  Definitely the dog and/or moving in with her mother.  Urban fantasy?  I can so see her tracking the guy down, definitely kicking his ass in the process 😀

And again I digress…  This post is supposed to be about scenes, not some cool setups for books-not-yet-written 😉

So now it’s over to you.  Anyone want to share your scene purpose and what will happen after as a result of that scene?


6 comments on “A Novel in 3 Months (week 5) – writing that scene

  1. Okay I’ll bit the bullet and give you my opening scene.

    Scene opens – James’ office

    Scene VP – Hero

    Scene Reveals – Heroines desire to have a child, show part of her past and hero’s objection to conceiving via AI (heroine wants him to be her donor)

    Scene ends – Hero’s struggle to keep his true feelings from heroine

    Scene purpose – Introduce characters, and show the emotional connection between H/H

    Now I don’t normally do any of this, but it makes so much sense, even if I write it up after I’ve written the scen to make sure I have all the point covered. Of course that is as long as I have it right above. LOL.

    Paual again, thank you so much for taking the time to explain all of this to us. BTW I meant to tell you the novel arrived that I won on Nicola Marsh’s blog. Thank you.


  2. This is great, Sandie! Anything that helps your writing flow easier is A Good Thing Indeed 😀 (BTW you haven’t been hacking into my computer, have you? That storyline is awfully familiar :wink:)

    I find that by doing this, I’m ready to tackle the next scene based on the issues/problems that have been raised in this one. I also find it interesting that a lot of my ‘preparation ‘ for writing these days is internal… I think about the story a lot, until I’m ready to start putting it down on paper.

  3. Hey Paula, like CB, I am a little slow on the uptake! Have been absent from blogging land for a little while… back on board now!

    As I am madly finishing my MSS for the 5DI, this is very, very helpful! Thanks!


  4. Paula, I got a little behind but am getting back on track with my wip again. I’ve never tried (or even considered) plotting each scene like you suggest. I usually just write some general notes on what is going to happen, but your way makes much more sense!

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