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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Excitement in Scenes, How I Start part 9

I wrote before, a scene must center around some event that is exciting.  Excitement is how you entertain and hold your reader's attention.  To build a scene that is exciting, you must imagine your characters involved in some event that drives the storyline, plot, and theme.  The scenes cannot be out of place to the storyline, plot, or theme, and they must fit your characters.  No scene, event within a scene, or piece of a scene can be extraneous or out of place.  Each bit, piece, and description must further the novel.  If, when you edit your writing, you find any piece that you can remove that will not affect the storyline, plot, or theme, then remove it.  This is something that is always interesting to me.  Many writers tell me when they edit, their writing length decreases.  Whenever I edit, the length of my manuscripts increase.  I always discover places I can improve and explain better.  I find places where I didn't provide sufficient description.  I rarely find scenes or events that are extraneous.  The reason for this is that I outline in scenes, and I center each scene in an event that propels the storyline. 

The main question is, how do you invent or develop exciting events?  Much of that is a writer's experience.  Just as writing well comes from much writing, event or idea development comes from both writing and life experience.  I would add that reading can provide many ideas for exciting events.  Let me show you the outline of scenes for the first chapter of Dana-ana
1.  Dana gets beat up: input, stealing lunches; output, she's knocked out.  You should be able to see the explicit excitement and action in this scene.  The pathetic character of Dana will not fight back (we find later that she can't fight back).
2.  Dana in the infirmary: input, Dana knocked out; output, Byron escorts her home.  Here the specific pieces driving the scene are Byron carrying her to the infirmary, the confrontation with the school nurse (we find out more about Dana; Dana broke into the infirmary safe before), Dana gains and loses consciousness a couple of times, Dana tries to get out of the infirmary on her own, Byron has to help her, she doesn't want his help...
3.  Dana's tarpaper house: input, Byron escorts her home; output, Byron goes home.  The action here is the walk to her house (lots of description), seeing the tarpaper house, describing the tarpaper house, realization that Dana has nothing, Dana washes Byron's feet to welcome him to her house (okay, here is where the storyline, plot, and theme really kick off.  If you didn't think Dana was odd to begin with, the moment she welcomes Byron to her house by washing his feet, your alarm bells should be going off.  She is obviously showing an action that is outside of a modern norm--yet this fits in the perspective of the novel and the action), Dana is hungry, Byron shares his lunch with her, Dana won't eat the food unless it is gifted to her in her real name (another cultural indicator), Byron discovers her heal name, she eats the food he gives her, Byron goes back to school.
Three scenes, three exciting events to develop one chapter.  That isn't too hard.  In this context the scenes flow one from the other.  You can read the entire chapter at  You can also see other examples of my writing at or read my books.

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