Friday, September 21, 2012

Scene and Sequel

In a recent post, John mentioned re-reading Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones. Most writers have favorite books that we return to. There are a number of books I simply didn't "get" the first time through. I probably thought I did at the time.

However, after one has had several books published, the concepts are easier to understand. Right now I'm going through Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure. It's one of my favorite books on the craft of writing because it deals with one of the most difficult elements to master: structure.

Structure is the hardest subject to teach in creative writing because it goes beyond plot. Bickham's book is especially useful because it deals with the structure of sequels – that which comes after a scene. I'm not discussing other books in a series.

Scene and Structure is a nuts and bolts book.  Bickham lays out clear, concise steps for developing a sequel. At its simplist level, a scene should end with something going wrong with the protagonist. That can be subtle or a major catastrophe. But it ends the scene.

We immediately go into the sequel steps: emotion, thought, decision, and action.

Emotion is what happens in real life too. End of scene – we hang up the phone sick at heart, or ecstatic, or whatever. This can be shown by description, example, or discussion. (He lit his first cigarette in two years.)

Thought follows. We settle down and think things over. I'm a great one for "sleeping on it" in real life. This is the ideal place to introduce backstory and other little tidbits. Thought usually involves review, analysis, and planning. Getting to review events is great for mystery writers. We remind the reader (again) of everything at stake.

Decision come next. We decide we can't just let our boss get away with it, even if it means losing our job.

Action – We go to the police. Which leads directly into the next scene and conflict.

Bless all the authors of these books who save us from endless trial and error.

1 comment:

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