Tuesday, October 29, 2013

~ Writing Tip : What's A Scene Do? ~

 *From The Institute of Childrens Literature newsletter*

The scene is the basic unit of story. Scene captures the reader's imagination. Scene brings us in and makes us care. Scene moves the plot, the characters, and the reader -- scene gives the reader chores so that he stays involved. Yet, many people begin writing their very first story totally without scenes --... so what are scenes?

~ Scenes are bounded by time and location. A scene with take place within a certain limited time and a set place. The reader will be rooted in the place and time throughout -- we will get a sense of both the passing of time and the location of the characters.

~ Scenes are created from sensory detail. If scenes are like cells, then sight is the protoplasm of the scene. Sight is the sense in which all other part of the scene are embedded. We see the characters through specific sight details. We see props -- those physical objects with which the characters interact. We see the setting itself. We don't linger on any one sight -- but we see those things that help make the scene more real and strengthen plot and characterization.

~ Scenes are filled with sound. Sound is the second greatest sense used in most scenes because we "hear" dialogue. Specific quoted dialogue gives us the feeling of eavesdropping on real people. Indirect dialogue simply informs us but direct quotes lures us ever closer and gets us involved.

~ Sensory detail borrows our memories to create the world of the scene. Scent is the most evocative sense -- connected almost directly with emotional response. A wise author includes scent, where appropriate, to create the greatest reality to the scene. Feeling is also very sensual -- bringing the reader ever closer. Taste is the least experiences sense in any scene but when used appropriately, it also creates reality for the reader.

~ Sensory detail isn't all inclusive. Just as we don't instantly experience everything about a room as soon as we walk into it, so also we cannot bombard the reader with every minute detail of a scene. If we linger to long looking at the drapes in a room, the reader is going to expect the drapes to be essential to the plot. If the drapes are not important -- they actually become detrimental to the scene because we distract the reader into thinking about them when the reader's attention needs to be elsewhere: on the plot and characterization.

~ Scenes give the reader chores. In a scene, we don't tell everything. We leave clues so that the reader can infer specific things about the characters and the emotion of the scene. It's like the difference between learning by lecture or learning by experience -- which is more effective? When we tell the reader everything, the reader will grow bored. But when we leave our specific detail clues, the reader becomes an active participant and gets wrapped up in our created reality.

~ A scene must be doing a job. Just as the scene give the reader chores, they must be essential chores. A scene which engages the reader in pointless sensory experience but don't really cause him to deduce things about the characters and plot, is really just slowing down your story. Every scene must serve the story. Know what the purpose of your scene is...then trim it down to the bits the serve the purpose. Then, you'll have a cell that builds your story's body.


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