Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Scene and Structure #4

Well, today I was greeted by my two year old in the hallway at 6am... LOL, It's just going to be one of those days. I fed her and clothed her.  Lucky for me, she wandered off to play with her stuffed animals and I can sneak in a few moments to share what I've learned from my latest reading in Jack Bickham's SCENE & STRUCTURE. Although, I hear an approaching floor popper, so this is probably going to be quick today.

Jack is talking about overall goals today in your scenes. How to avoid the circular arguments that plague many children and non-comunicative adults..... *snicker* 

When we read a book, we don't want the characters to just argue and go back and forth at each other, we want problems, crisis, choices that must be made, action that must be taken. We want to hope and cheer on our heroes and heroines in their epic struggle to reach their goal and we want to be made to believe that they might not make it.

Remember to have your long-term story question in mind when writing each chapter all they way down to each individual scene. If the story is about Jack and Jill climbing a hill. Every scene should be their struggle to do so until they ultimately succeed. Unless something else relates to that goal and question, it is unneeded and distracting to the reader.

Authors do this successfully by placing conflicts in their characters' paths - usually a villain figure.

Now for the 'disaster' as Jack calls it. The final twist in a scene that keeps the hero/heroine from achieving their quest or attaining their goal.

'It seems clear why this should be so. If a character enters a scene, has a big struggle, and comes out with exactly what he went in for, then he is happy as a lark. Again -just as if there had been no fight at all - Jack and and Jill are happy, the reader is happy - and all story tension just went down the drain.

This is why the scene, if it is to work as a building block in your novel, must end not well, but badly. Jack and Jill can not be allowed to attain their scene goal. They must encounter a new setback. They must leave in worse shape than they were in when they went in. Any time you can build a scene which leaves your character(s) in worse shape, you have probably "made progress" in terms of your story's development!

So to recap... 
1) Start with a goal in mind
2) Plan your conflicts
3) Devise a solid disaster 

Now, go torture those characters for our pleasure and enjoyment! 
Remember it's for a good cause. You want to write a bestseller!

Happy Writing, Happy Reading.
Krystal Shannan


  1. Awesome post!

    Aw, your son sounds adorable. Mine are teen and preteen. I miss the days when they did cute things.

    Now a days, oldest wants to mimic Macgyver and take things apart,lol.

  2. Thanks! So glad you enjoyed it!

    My little one is still small, but they grow so fast :-)

  3. Ha, very nice post! Thanks for sharing, Krystal.

  4. Great reminder, Krystal. This is my weakest writing point. Sometimes I want to reveal things about the characters, but it doesn't forward the story.