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11.03.2013 05:15    Comments: 0    Categories: Writing Scenes      Tags: rocky cole  steps  write  troublesome  difficult scene  

Have you ever been writing a story and come up against a scene and been at a loss as to what to write or how to handle the specifics of a scene? Whether you are a detailed plotter or someone who likes to just sit down and write freeform, a story is made up of distinct and definable scenes. A writing teacher of mine once told me that if you know how to write good scenes, you will be able to write any fiction. Okay, that makes sense. But let's dig a little deeper and think about what that teacher meant, what exactly is a scene, and what is it that makes some of them harder to write than others? And, when you encounter one of those tough scenes, what do you do - specifically, what do you do to write that particular troubling scene and not get bogged down?


What is a scene?


Well, a scene is a discreet and specific part of a story. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It takes place in a finite period of time. Generally there is one or more characters present. And, something happens in the scene. It is helpful to think cinematically if you are having any trouble with this definition. Think about movies and stories you have really liked and told your friends about. "Hey, remember that scene in Jaws where the head falls out of the submerged boat... Remember that scene in the Lord of the Ring where Golum bites Frodo's finger off..." A good scene is memorable.


So, how do we get in trouble with scenes?


First, I think that when we do not have a clear idea of what the scene is about, it is difficult to write it. In other words, if you are humming along with a clear idea of what a scene is really about, it is probably not that hard to write it. Sure, you may debate how to best write it, but you probably can get it down. So, the first step in writing a troublesome scene is to figure out what the scene is really about - explore what the scene means and what needs to happen. How do you do that?


Here are five steps to writing a troublesome scene and moving your story forward:


1. Figure out why you have the scene in your story in the first place. More than likely, you have a need for a character to get from point A to point B, or you need something to happen - either an action, a decision, or an insight. If there is nothing important that happens in the scene, then maybe it doesn't need to be there. Ding! Eliminate unnecessary scenes and your writing will be crisper and tighter.


2. Decide what characters have to be in the scene and what each of them wants or needs. Remember, you want tension in every scene in your story, whether that tension is overt and visible or subtle and hidden. Tension is achieved by characters wanting different things, having different goals, coming into conflict or having conflict within themselves.


3. Decide on a location and a time for the scene. The more specific you are, the easier the scene will be to write. I am not advocating that you have to write a detailed spreadsheet out (unless you are into that kind of thing, as Ridley Pearson is), but having a clear vision of location and time makes for clear and precise writing.


4. Figure out how the scene will start and how the scene will end. How will you know when the scene is over? What has to happen? Try this: write the very first line of the scene and the very last line of the scene and see if that does not open up your writing. Even if you know you will discard either the opening or the ending, framing the scene will help you construct it.


5. Write the dialogue first. Seriously, if you are stuck on a scene, don't worry about description, exposition or even action. Write the dialogue first and then go back and fill in everything around it.


If you have never written this way, give it a try. Writing is about choices and constructing a layered piece of work (my belief). Dialogue is one of the less complicated things to handle if you know your characters even moderately well. If you are feeling bogged down or blocked in a story and you are just not sure how to handle a difficult scene, try and break it down and approach it in a systematic and methodical way. Some scenes are easy to write and you flow from one to the next in a linear way - you are in the zone and the story is just pouring out almost effortlessly. If that is the case, just go with it, and remember to thank the writing gods and goddesses. But when it is not going so well, take a deep breath and try the steady, measured approach I've outlined here. Maybe in the end it will all get rewritten and tossed, but having a system to use on the tough scenes means that you can always advance the story.


Remember, write hard and write often.



About the Author


Rocky Cole is a professional counselor and freelance writer. More information on freelance and creative writing can be found at http://www.ColeWriting.com.

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