Lately I’ve been reading various pieces from new and up-n-coming authors and I’ve noticed something with scenes.
They tend to “wander.”
Scenes should have a focus. A point and a purpose.
Here at My Book Therapy we talk about SHARP and FOCUS when writing a scene but today I’m going to talk about the POINT of a scene.
I don’t have an acronym for POINT but you don’t need one.
The word itself is makes my… well… point.
As you write your scene, consider “what is the point of my scene?”
The purpose? Why are you writing this scene.
You have to deliver some emotional and physical element of the point-of-view character using SHARP and FOCUS techniques.
But you also have to stay within the point and purpose of the scene.
As characters speak and move, it’s easy to get lost and meander through the scene.
For example: If you begin a scene in the heroine’s point of view to show how she wants to get a job at a publishing house as an editor, you have to end the scene with her either achieving an interview or finding out there are no jobs available.
You can’t end the scene with her deciding she wants to visit a friend and wondering if the friend’s boyfriend will ever propose.
I’ve seen this a lot lately.
The scene must also end with the thoughts or actions of the point-of-view character.
Be careful not to exit the scene with the thoughts and actions of another character.
Let’s go back to the character go for a job at a publishing house. Here’s how you structure it…
Open the scene with the heroine in dialog or checking her email to see if she has a job interview.
Use dialog to deliver her emotion and her “wants.”
In the midst of this you can show her home world, her competency, friends or family, whatever but again, use dialog and action to show the reader the characters.
Layer in emotion. How does she feel about getting a job with a publisher. Why does she want this job?
What’s the stake of the scene? Should she get a job interview or do you need to distance the heroine from her goal?
If this is an early on scene, your heroine should probably not get the job interview, but this is why story structure is important. You have to know where you’re going. Develop some kind of road map.
When the heroine learns, let’s say, she didn’t get the interview, she has to have some emotional reaction. And she must have some kind of action or resolve to carry the story forward.
Again, this is why back story development is so important. Not getting the job should go to her dark wound of her past.
She thinks she never gets what she wants. All of her dreams are thwarted in some way… Ever since her dad lost his job and could never find another one.
She believes life and God are against her and that nothing will ever change or go her way.
Not getting a job interview is just another brick in her wall.
So, you end the scene with our heroine going to her old job and deciding life is never going her way. She should just decide waiting tables is all she’s ever going to do.
Don’t end the scene with her calling her friends and meeting for coffee. Or going shopping.
Why? Because there’s no emotional hook to it. We need to see her world, get a feel for why she wants out of the diner job and to achieve her dream.
Remember this: End the scene the way it began.
In other words, if you began dealing with her job, end dealing with her job or her emotions about the job. Or her emotions about life but relate it to why she wants that job!
1. What’s the POINT of your scene?
2. What’s the GOAL? What are you trying to communicate about the character and her journey?
3. What’s the emotional STAKES? In other words, how will you SHOW the reader what she wants by going for this job interview? How will you hint at her dark would/lie/fear in this scene? Or hint at what she really wants out of life.
4. End the way you began. Stay on task. If you’re introducing a want like a certain job and hinting at her fears that she’ll never get anything she wants in life, end with some kind of physical or emotional resolve about the same thing. It can be negative: “I’ll never amount to anything.” Or positive: “I’m going to go get that job no matter what!”
5. Leave the scene with some kind of hook to give the reader hope that the character is only just beginning this journey, or finally wising up.
This stuff takes time. You need to develop the characters and story world, their journey and what the story is about to create impactful, meaningful scenes.
There are other elements to a scene such as emotional layering and story layering, but work in getting these basics and then you can smoothly add more.
Best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She excels in seeing the deeper layers of a story.
With a love for teaching and mentoring, Rachel comes alongside writers to help them craft their novel.
A worship leader, board member of ACFW and popular writing teacher, Rachel is the author of over 16 novels.
She lives in Florida with her husband and her dog, Lola. Contact her at: Rachel@mybooktherapy.com. Her next book, Once Upon A Prince, releases May 7!
Go forth and write!
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