Saturday, January 18, 2014

Novel Craft: 5 Useful Scenes

Hi, folks.  Scenes serve as the building blocks of story. This is the third in a series about scenes, and this week I am going to go beyond the basic scene and discuss  a number of specialty scenes that will help produce fluid stories. This is not a complete list but these five scene types will help you expand your repertoire.  The more types of scenes you use, the more complex and texture your stories will be. As always, this is a working writer's perspective.

1. The Flashback -- This scene is similar to the basic scene but is framed. It is a jump into the past and will reveal something about the character. Use sparingly and with purpose. The frame around the flashback allows the reader to step into the past and then return to the present. The elements of this scene include  a lull, a trigger, and a memory.  Flashbacks interrupt the flow of the story and don't work well in the middle of the action.  Find a lull in your story to insert a flashback. Often the character is alone.  Next, trigger the flashback. This usually is accomplished by a sensory detail that invokes a profound feeling. Finally, recall a memory. This shoots us into the flashback, which is often a basic scene. The flashback ends with a transition line, where the character makes a decision in the present about the events of the flashback.

2. The Chase --This scene moves characters through a number of settings in rapid succession. This scene is the staple of mystery authors and action/adventure authors.  Authors must work hard to orient readers through rapid setting changes. Emotions and thoughts are clipped in this type of scene. If you see long blocks of dialogue in a chase scene, break it up.  This best way to make this type of scene work is to block it out in the physical world. Pretend to be your character and run around your backyard, leaping imagined fire pits and ducking into secret rooms. It's tons of fun and it will give you the information you need to the places for dialogue, emotion, and thoughts with finesse.

3. The Realm -- This scene moves characters through a threshold from one space/time to another. This is important in fantasy writing and historical writing. This type of scene is also a framed.  Sometimes you may stay in the alternative space/time several scenes.  Some writers like to use dates and/or setting names to help orient the reader. If you do have many space/time jumps, this convention is very helpful. If you plan to stay in the realm for a long period the convention is not necessary. This kind of scene require extra description to help the reader make the jump through space/time. So a realm scene is similar to the basic scene but pays particular attention to detail that will orient the reader, lots of sensory input. 

4. The Gag -- I love the gag scene. This type of scene is totally written to make the reader laugh.  A gag scene has all the elements of a basic scene, but also has a set-up and a pay-off.  Repeated gags can lead to big laughs. The set-up puts the reader on edge, like a bucket of water over the character's head that will be tipped at the end of the scene.  A gag involves something that will really embarrass your main character. It is about going there. Up the stakes of embarrassment three times in all gag scenes. The power of three is important here.

5. The Conversation I affectionately call this type of scene -- the talking heads.  You see lot of these scenes in literary and romance fiction. These scenes can go for up to three pages. It about quips, internal thoughts, eyes, lips,  swirling spoons and the banter between two characters.  All the elements of a basic scene are here, but the dialogue is extended. The setting is very bland and it is all about what these two people are saying. I find it handy in these scenes to give characters prosaic tasks like knitting, writing a letter, or perhaps taking a turn around the room.  You better be about to toss witticism, double-entendre and boiling emotions to do this. This one is tough to master and is akin to poetry -- either you have an ear or not.

Enough all ready! You have tons to think about. I hope that awareness of these types of scenes will help you create better stories because I am always looking for something to read. I will see you next week with more about scenes.

No doodles, I'm on the road to Rockwall, TX visiting relatives.

Here is a quote for your pocket. 

Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person. Albert Einstein.

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