Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How do you write a scene? #2

So happy Forth of July! May everyone enjoy their BBQ and fireworks tonight! Be safe and be careful not to burn anything down. I don't know where you are, but around here everything thing is as dry as a crispy critter.

Remember what our Forth of July is actually celebrating. Independence from England. Remember the movie The Patriot with Mel Gibson, yep, just in case you are a little rusty on your history that's the war I'm talking about. Our ancestors fought long and hard so we could have all the advantages that come with being a US citizen. Be sure you vote to keep our country that way.

Moving on to our topic for the day. How to START and how to END a scene. 'The point to be made here, is that 95% of the popular novels published today -whatever their general form (1st, 3rd, etc.) -depend on the structure of the scene to make them work'.

But first Jack's answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

1) "How long should my novel be?"

Haha, personally I just write until the story ends, but I guess I could see this being a problem for some. But, his answer for you is (unless you are writing a novella for sure) assume the 60-90,000 word range.  Then depending on the publisher you are seeking, you may have to shorten or length from there.

He goes on to say that novels below 60,000 words do have a chance to be published, but is is far below the norm. In nowadays market, unless you are writing a catagory line for Harlequin, shorter novels and novellas are bought constantly by the booming epub industry. Novels over the 90,000 word range apparently jump into a more expensive category for publishers and they are wary of those as well, because they become a higher risk. Interesting.

2) "Where should my story start?"

The answer... Wherever the character is going to experience the most dramatic portion of his/her lifespan. LOL. In essence -the juiciest part.
Here's Jack Bickham's 5 things to remember about your reader.

  1. They are fascinated and threatened by significant change;
  2. They want the story to start with such a change;
  3. They want to have a story question to worry about;
  4. They want the story question answered in the story ending;
  5. The will quickly lose patience with everything but material that relates to the story question.
Ok, so our stories should start with a change, lead quickly to goal, and raise a story question in the reader's mind to hook them! But how do we end...? 

Simple answer.

Answer the story question.

It may take a month of the character's life. It may take a week. For novella writers it may only take 48 hours of a character's life to pose a question and answer it. But to really hook our readers, we must make them worry for our characters and desire to know if they are going to make through our fabricated crisis or not... SO... 

Go back to your stories and ask yourself these questions from the readers' perspective. 

In the meantime, here is Jack's abridged version of the GAME PLAN.

  • Consider your story materials as presently imagined. Look for and identify, in terms of days, weeks or months, that briefer period of time when the "the big stuff happens." Plan to eliminate virtually everything else.
  • Think hard about your most major character and what makes him/her tick - what his/her self concept is, and what kind of life he/she has built to protect and enhance it.
  • Identify or create a dramatic situation or event which will present your character (and your reader) with the significant, threatening moment of change.
  • Plan your plot so that your novel will open with this event.
  • Decide what intention or goal your most significant character will select to try and fix things after the threatening opening change. Note what story question this goal will put int he reader's mind.
  • Devise the start of a plan formulated by your most significant character as he set out to make things right again.
  • Figure out how much later - and where and how - the story question finally will be answered. You should strive to know this resolution before you start writing. Granted some things change while writing, but you should know your final destination :-)

Next week join me for Cause and Effect...

Happy Writing 
Happy Reading
Krystal Shannan


  1. All excellent points. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by :-)

  2. Very awesome information. Nice post!

    1. So glad it was helpful! I'm learning a lot, reading through it and regurgitating the important parts to share.