Monday, November 5, 2012

Workshop Day 4

Today, I'll be combining the workshop and the edits, just as I did the last lesson, because no matter if your manuscript is only a few chapters started or you are ready to revise, this Plot Puppet will help both!!

Today, I'm talking about scenes. Do you know what a scene is? Some writers may confuse a scene with a chapter. That's not the case. A chapter can have many scenes. Scenes are not about people, or dialogue, or settings.

A scene tells about a thing and the change that happens to that thing. A scene must have a "thing" and then a change must happen to that thing. In other words, change is CONFLICT. Oh, there's that word again - conflict- and it must be important because the word comes up everywhere!

Let me explain by giving you an example:

Here is a thing:

Smooth, still water reflected the moon glow, bouncing off the surface in swirling dances. The air matched the cool liquid, nipped my cheeks and combed through my hair. I rubbed my arm trying to warm up the goose bumps pooping up. Where did I put my sweater? I stared at the lake, as if my sweater would be under the mirrored water.

And here's the conflict:

It started as a small ripple, ever growing, soaking my dress and dripping through my fingers that clutched the hem. I dived through the water, struggling to reach the top, but something pushed me further away from the moon rays that spilled above my head. The light turned dark as the silver beams inked away into shadows. Tiny bubbles escaped my nose and danced on my skin.

That was a small scene. If I were putting the entire scene here, it would be much longer. My scenes  tend to tun between 1500 and 2000 words, give or take a few. But you can see from my example that I started with a THING and the conflict changed my thing.

I hope you can see from the example what changed. Could you feel the atmosphere and tone change? Do you think my character changed?

Every scene needs conflict, a change. And EVERY change needs to drive the story forward, toward your end goal. Don't write a wasted scene. Make sure there's conflict. And change.


  1. So my "thing" is: Stephanie walked down the locker-lined hallway, her eyes on the tiny metal numbers. She knew the location of her locker, halfway down the science hall, three in from the top, but she couldn't remember the number. Ever. And she'd need the number to petition the front office to move to one closer to her first class.
    And my "change" is: The unusually large crowd and loud shouts pulled her eyes towards the center of the hallway. The guys were laughing maliciously, and more than one phone was out to take a picture. With a mild curiosity, Stephanie wondered what the focus of all of this attention was. Then she saw the giant, neon blue duck tape cross. The school's locker vandal had struck again. And with a hard twist to her stomach, she counted the lockers, it was hers.
    Is that right?

  2. My question: why is the locker vandal important? Why should/is Stephanie embarrassed?

    I like what's going on here. You've raised questions and that's what keeps readers turning pages!

  3. My "thing": When they drove the Jeep through the main market, it was like riding through a ghost town.
    “They’re all gathering at the temple,”said Naik. “To watch the show.”
    Qasim’s hand clamped down on the steering wheel. There was something so ominous about the way Naik had said that. He didn’t say, _To watch the procession_. He didn’t say _To enjoy the festival_.
    _To watch the show._
    Why did that send cold tendrils of fear down Qasim’s spine? Why did that simple statement make bile rise in his throat and make him edgy?
    The wind sighed and tossed plastic bags around the empty lots like squashed heads. They bounced through the deserted market square past the leaning cart of a vendor who should have been selling his oranges at this time of day. Instead, a large stray cat was nosing the abandoned wares and a thin, mangy donkey with a frayed rope around its neck sniffed the fruits. When Qasim turned his head for a last glance, the donkey bit down on a rotting grapefruit, chewed once and began to bray.
    _The devil. It sees the devil._
    Qasim shivered.
    Naik nudged him. “Look at that.”
    Up ahead, where the road turned and sloped up toward the village of Chitti Ghati on its way to the temple, the crowd was thin but lively. People were chattering. Little boys and girls laughed and ran between the grownups’ legs. A knot of women giggled and covered their faces as a group of boys strutted past them, beeris and the corners of their mustaches clamped between their restless fingers; and when their Jeep went past them, a few of the boys turned and waved.
    _It’s peaceful. No problem here. All’s good with the world, just look.
    (MY 'change"): It wasn’t right. That was the problem. Something so disdainfully deceptive about all this something. It was in the nervous flicking of their eyes, in the too shrill laughter of the women as they turned their faces from the boys. That flash of skittishness as they trotted up the mountains. Something so ... so put-on. As if they all knew it was a gaudy display.
    For whose benefit?
    On their way to watch a show.
    Whose show?

    1. Hi Usman,
      You've got a great set up!

      For the change, do you go into more detail in this scene? You tell us about the change, but not show us. If you could be more specific, you'd have me hooked:)

      Sounds like you are off to an amazing start and I sure want to know more! Work on up-ing the conflict and you've got a winning scene!

  4. Thanks, I do have more stuff happening here. This scene's actually headed right into the climax of the book. Hopefully, we can up the ante, soon.


I missed August's posting

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