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Last Week’s WW:  The Life and Death of a Character

Stories are big.  So big, in fact, that we cannot possibly show every piece of them.  But then, who would want to?  Is it really necessary to show Sir Wexbuttom cleaning the dishes after that disastrous dinner party?  No.  We want to see the dinner party.  

Here’s 10 things to know about Scenes:

1) Something interesting or, even more importantly, intrinsic should be going on.  

2) A scene has to have a point.  Granted, a smaller point then the story as a whole.  But it needs to have a reason for being there.  It has to move the story forward.  A scene cannot just exist to exist.  If it does, then it’s extraneous, and people will feel that about it.

3) Scenes are happening.  They are living, breathing critters scurrying along through your book.  They different from exposition or background.  They are what your character is going through.  They transport the reader to the present of your story.

4) Don’t interrupt your scene.   Recaps and exposition can make a reader feel rushed or bored.  And if they are placed smack in the middle of a scene, then the reader will be distracted and taken out of the moment.  Do what you have to at the beginning or end of a scene.  But if it’s interesting enough to mention, then maybe it’s interesting enough to show.

5) Yes, sometimes you have to just get information out.  But you can build a scene in a way that makes learning that information interesting.   I love dialogue.  It would be easy for me to have chapter after chapter of people talking.  But readers don’t like to hear about the world from a disembodied voice.  Stuff has to go on during the speaking, around the speaking.  Before and after it, too.  

6) Sure, you need continuity.  You need to show how something got from point A to Z.  But do you actually need to show B-Y?  Probably not.  You could like show B, D, maybe F, then G, combine K and L… 

7) Every scene should have tension.  They don’t all need to get your heart racing.  Sometimes people need to take a break and catch their breath.  But the scene should still be enticing.  It should still have that drawl to it that makes a person want to keep going.  That’s tension.

8) If you’re bored writing a scene, people will be bored reading it.

9) Keep the writing tight.  Get your ideas across with as little language as possible.  This keeps the scene smooth and flowing.  It allows people to skip over the language, and just hear the story.

10) Make it as real as you can.  Utilize as many senses possible.  “He heard the crinkling sound of plastic as a mouse scurried off in his peripheral vision.  The stinking stench of foul trash invaded his nose and deposited a spoiled taste on his tongue.  His skin crawled at felt dirtied by the air.”  All 5.  “He felt someone watching him.”  There’s a bonus 6th sense.  It crafts a scene with few words, but has an impact.

I hope that this has been helpful.  I could go on and on about it, but I’ll save more for another Wednesday.  Now go, out into that digital world and craft and amazing scene!