Saturday, 21 April 2018

Scene Building Tips for the Busy Writer

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Writing is a bit like a long distance race. First and foremost, you have to be passionate about it--ask a runner why she runs and you'll know that it's all about passion. But is passion enough to make you a good professional athlete or a writer?

For a writer, passion is a great starting point but it's not enough. You need to train, prepare, hone your craft, practise, practise, practise.

But where is the time to do all that, you may ask. The large majority of writers struggle with day jobs, caring for children, pets and parents and multiple other activities. And, there are only so many hours in a day. Passion will get you to a point where you find the time to write. But passion alone is not enough. You need to learn your craft. That would mean reading about the  art and craft of writing as well as reading books--both within and outside--the genre in which you are writing.

Reading is important because that will define and develop your tastes in writing.

Skipping these essential elements will only make you struggle harder and longer at writing your own magnum opus. I often hear newbie writers gripe that they end up spending their precious writing time staring at a blank computer screen and wondering what exactly should go into the scene. After all, they have carved out one hour from a hectic 16-18 hours of their waking time to devote to their passion and they have no time to waste! Sure, they have an overall plot idea and a basic outline, but are clueless about getting the ball rolling on a particular scene. 

Crafting a Story one Scene at a Time

Scenes are the building blocks of your story. Each scene builds on the last to craft a complete story. Through scenes you create compelling characters, convey their emotions, build conflict into your story and engage your readers. Normally there would be scenes to establish setting, deliver important information (exposition), transition scenes that get the characters/story from one place to another (either in terms of location or time).

So, before you sit down to write a scene here are some tips to reduce your staring-at-a-blank-page time.

1. Spend some time to read the previous scenes that you have written and figure out what happens next in your story. You probably already have an outline worked out. Or even some rough notes on what needs to happen in the story. It is always advisable to have a rough outline about your story.

2. Jot down some points of the things that you would like to happen in the next few scenes. It always works to have an end goal in mind. For instance, if you are starting out with a party scene where the Hero and Heroine meet each other, make notes about what is likely to take place in the scene and the next few scenes. Perhaps they decide to go on a date or the party ends on a note of conflict with the Hero being manhandled by the Heroine's friend.

3. It always helps to have a mood tracker for your scenes. For example, if you start on a positive emotion for one of your characters in the scene at the end of the scene or a couple of scenes, the mood could be a negative one. So, to quote the party example, the scene begins on a positive note with the Hero and Heroine's cute-meet but ends with conflict and tension. This postive-to-negative (or vice-versa) balance ensures that there is enough and more happening in your scene.

4. If you are still stuck, pick up one scene that you know has to be there in your book. Don't worry about its placement, for now. And don't be afraid to write in non-linear fashion. This helps you get started. The good part of this method, is that you can always tweak the scene later to fit in with the scenes that precede or follow.

5. Scenes are often designed to convey information (also known as exposition) to the reader about the character's traits and/or plot elements. But often it can lead to 'information dump'. To avoid that make sure your scene does double duty. For instance, in a romance novel, conflict and banter are often pegged with something that is going on with the plot. That helps keep readers engaged and yet provides them with the necessary exposition.

 6. As you write, you might find yourself deviating from your outline. So it helps to keep the outline updated. It keeps you on track and ensures that your story does not go down a completely different track! Or if the new track seems like a more compelling storyline, it helps to have an updated outline as a quick and easy reference.

7. Finally, here's a little cheat sheet... A resource that provides  16 different kinds of scenes that could be there in your story. If you're well and truly stuck, reach out for this list and am sure you will be able to find one (or a combination) of these types of scenes that fit your story!

Hope you find these tips useful. And do share your methods to kickstart your scene writing when you're staring at a blank page.

Happy Writing!











9 comments :

  1. Very good and helpful article! Number 4 works for me as I am a very messy writer (When it comes to drafts, not writing-wise, hopefully). :)

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    1. Glad you liked it, Tarang. Non-linear writing can be a challenge but if it works for you, it can be fun...kind of reverse-engineering the story! :)

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  2. Very useful for all of us, thank a lot.

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  3. This is absolutely lovely...tons of useful information presented in simple terms .

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