Sunday, October 23, 2011

Thinking in scenes

I wrote 1,500 words on the sci-fi story and set it aside with a goal of finishing it before November 1. I had to switch projects because of a deadline.

I'm taking a one-day workshop next month to learn about techniques for writing a good first scene, and as part of the class, I have to submit my own first scene by Tuesday. I had one ready, but it wasn't anything special so I've been rewriting it. I cast two of the characters in my head, tightened up the language, and added a few more story hints to set the tone of the story.

One big problem is I'm not sure where the scene starts and stops. I drop the reader into the middle of the action and then set the main character in motion. She has mini-goals and I present bigger questions, and it moves along fairly quickly.

My gut says the first three pages are the first scene. Something strange happens, she talks to somebody and then she runs for something. After the running part I *think* a new scene starts. But is it really about location? I don't think so.

Links I've found during my research that are particularly useful get posted to my Facebook page. If you want to follow along subscribe or like or whatever it is we do now.

I'll give you one link for free: Wikipedia summarizes Jack Bickham's definition well. He says a scene has a fundamental pattern:

  • Statement of a goal
  • Introduction and development of conflict
  • Failure of the character to reach his goal, a tactical disaster
With that in mind I think I am missing an opportunity for failure in those opening pages. It's funny sometimes. I've spent my life consuming stories and these basic structural elements are still so elusive. I've been so busy suspending my disbelief, I haven't stopped to think about the formula.

I don't believe you can subvert a formula until you know how it works and why. So here's to me learning the basics. A little late trumps never, I guess.


E.M. Jeanmougin said...

I have a lot of trouble with opening scenes too. Most times I just wish I could skip them. haha.

Also, I tried to add you on NaNo, but I can't figure out how. o.O The buddies section just says "coming soon". Weird, yes?

Folly Blaine said...

The NaNo site just made all sorts of improvements and they say the writing buddy section will be up and running before November 1. I guess they still have to migrate all the preexisting buddies over. But yes, weird, timing-wise.

I'm excited and freaked out to be doing this. Looking forward to seeing your progress too. :)