From Book Daily.com DiAnn Mills Originally Printed on April 10, 2017
Novels are written written with one powerful, sensory-engaging, character-building, plot-enhancing, conflict-stabbing, stake-raising scene after another.
They are fresh, alive, exciting, unforgettable . . . and often difficult for the writer to grasp the technique.
With all the criteria necessary to keep the reader turning pages, how is a scene mastered that incorporates all the essentials and yet doesn’t look like a template branded onto the page?
Some years ago, I struggled with all of above. Defeat and failure stalked my waking and sleeping hours. An editor at Tyndale Publishers gave me four plot questions to ask before creating each scene, and they also gave me permission to write and teach their recommendations. How cool is that?
The following are what I now use to form a new scene.
1. What is the point of view character’s goal or problem? 2. What does the point of view character learn that he/she didn’t know before? 3. What backstory is revealed? 4. How are the stakes raised?
These questions stopped me from heading in the wrong direction. In short, I could focus on what needed to occur. At times the answers to #2 and #3 are the same. That’s okay.
These gems propelled me to think more about the dynamics of scenes and how I envision an adventuresome and unique story. I’ve also incorporated a few words of wisdom from other bestselling writers.
Donald Mass teaches: “Avoid backstory until after the first approximately 50 pages.”
Wow, that means the story begins in the now. We’re writing about a likable character who is experiencing the story world as it unfolds to them. The reader develops a relationship with the character, just like meeting a real person for the first time.
James Scott Bell adds: “Avoid character flaws for the first approximately 50 pages.”
I love this. The character holds back on showing those traits that aren’t admirable while the reader is getting to know him/her. Remember dating the man or woman of your dreams? We were in love before we spotted a few things that bothered us. But we’d already invested in the relationship, so we stuck with it.
Steven James: “Story trumps structure.”
How else can we write a scene that is a keeper? The middle can leave us exasperated, and too often a reader discards the book when the story falls flat. Here are a few tips:
1. Have the character choose between two rights and face the consequences of the decision. 2. Have the character choose between two wrongs (one of my favs) because this forces the character to change and grow. 3. Toss in a crucible, when two characters will not give up something of value. Think lifeboat. 4. Shove two characters into a scene with opposing goals. Watch the conflict explode! 5. Consider a facade scene. This is when a character believes something to be true, and the reader believes it too, then the character faces the devastation of knowing he/she was wrong. Entire books can be constructed this way.
Building scenes with a worthy goal, adding conflict, and raising the story’s stakes is worth the time. The rewards will be in satisfied readers, good reviews and increased sales.
How do you write scenes that usher in admiration and respect for the craft?
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; the Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Her latest book, Deep Extraction, releases in April.
Connect with her on twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills
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