My Favorites

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Writing Ideas - How I Start a Novel Part 5, Scene Building

9 July 2013, Writing Ideas - How I Start a Novel Part 5, Scene Building

Announcement: My novels Sister of Light and Sister of Darkness are about to be published. I write this blog about 2 months prior to its publication. I just heard that the proofs will be here soon--likely before the end of the week. My publisher also wants to put the entire set of novels based on Aegypt on contract--that's 5 more novels for 8 total. They also want to put my other novels on contract. The release schedule should be one novel every 2 months. I'll keep you updated.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel beginning with

I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website and select "production schedule," you will be sent to

Here are my rules of writing:

1. Entertain your readers.
2. Don't confuse your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.

I like to drive a scene through conversation. You can see in yesterday's example, I used a snippet of conversation between Byron and an anonymous girl to introduce Dana (Diana). This is the power of conversation. You can express many, many ideas without a single word of narrative or description. For example, instead of telling us, she is crying, you can have another character state, "There's no need to cry." In that single string of words, I told you something about the girl, she is crying, and about the observer. Let's look at Dana-ana as an example of the conversation driving the first scene. My comments are in [].

[Dan and Jack are bit characters. There is no reason to break the action to give them much description.] Dan held Diana’s arm. [Here is the input to the scene, Dana is stealing lunches] He put his pimply face in hers and yelled [I don't like to ever use said. I want to use more descriptive words or show the actions of the speakers], “Thought you could just take it, didn’t you?” He twisted her arm and Diana flinched. She turned slightly until Jack’s hold on her hair stopped her.

Byron took a step forward, “What’s up Dan, Jack?” [We see Byron reluctantly get involved. His actions show he isn't really interesting in saving Dana, but rather he feels compelled to prevent the other students from hurting her too much.]

Dan glanced quickly up at Byron. His eye twitched, “Don’t interfere Macintyre. She stole Sherrill’s lunch. We’re sure she took Jane’s the day before. She’s been taking lunches since the beginning of school. We just finally caught her at it this time.”

“How’d you do that?”

Dan twisted Diana’s hand around and squeezed it open. “Take a look,” he grinned, “red handed.”

Diana’s hand was stained blue.

“Put that powder from the last chemistry lab on the handle,” he showed his teeth again, “add a little water, and the blue hand shows who touched it.” [Here is the proof that Dana is stealing lunches. The other character, Dan, just showed it to the reader and explained how--no need of narrative.]

Byron put out his arm, “That’s enough, Dan, Jack. Just tell her to keep her hands off other people’s lunches and let her go.” [Sounds reasonable, but in the next bit of dialog, Jack explains why Byron doesn't understand the problem of Dana.]

Jack shook his head, “That won’t be enough for her. She’ll do it again unless we teach her a good lesson.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“Sherrill has to get her piece, and Jane.” [Sherrill and Jane are bit characters, no need to break the action to describe them.]

Byron glanced at Jane then Sherrill. Jane shook her head. Sherrill tossed her hair, “That’s enough for me. She didn’t get my lunch. Diana, you keep your hands off my stuff—you hear?” [Sherrill's response is due to Byron's intimidation. No need to tell you how he affects them, but rather show you the results. The dialog explains it all.]

Dan had Diana’s arm behind her back, and Jack twisted her head back with her hair. Her face was turned upwards and her eyes were squeezed shut.

Byron addressed the girl, “What do you say, Diana?” [This is ironic because we find out Dana will not respond. This also indicates how little Byron knows Dana.]

Dan twisted her arm a little more. Diana flinched. Dan squinted, “She won’t say anything. She never says anything. Just slinks around and steals stuff.” He turned a little more toward Sherrill, which twisted Diana’s arm a bit more. Byron thought her arm looked close to breaking—still Diana didn’t make a sound. Dan nodded to Sherrill, “Sherrill, pop her one. That’s your right and that’ll teach her.”

Sherrill stepped forward, took a look at Byron, and stepped back, “You do it. I’m done.”

Without any warning, Jack pulled back his fist and tugged Diana’s hair toward it. His fist met her cheek with a crack, and she sagged forward. Dan’s hold was the only thing that kept her from falling flat on her face. He released her arm, and she flopped forward into the dirt. [This is the output of the scene and the input to the next scene--Dana is knocked out.]

Sherrill scowled, “She didn’t admit to anything. Pants her. That’ll teach her.” [Once Dana is entirely helpless, the cruelty of the students comes out. This gives us insight into them and shows us what they think about Dana.]

Dan reached down and grabbed the back of Diana’s pants. She didn’t have a belt on. He tugged down and half bared her buttocks. Byron moved quickly, “That’s enough Dan. You made your point.”

Sherrill laughed, “She doesn’t have any underwear on.” She pointed, “Look at that. I thought she was low, but I had no idea she was like that.” [we find out more about Dana]

At the edges of the crowd a call went up, “Teacher. Beat it.” [The result of this announcement should be obvious.]

The input into the next scene is Dana is knocked out cold and Byron takes her to the infirmary. Whew, lots of notes. I could give you even more.

Here is the development of the scene from beginning to end. First the input, Dana is stealing lunches and she was caught. She is about to be beaten for it. The action revolves around this and the dialog tells you what is happening and gives you insight into the characters. Mainly, in terms of plot and storyline, this is the beginning of the introduction of Dana and Byron. This is the event that first brings them into contact with each other. The event is somewhat commonplace and not out of place for the characters. Neither Dana nor Byron want to be there and neither are interested in each other. Circumstances simply bring them together and the bond between them is Byron's attempt to help her in light of the actions against her. The output from this scene is Dana is knocked out. The input to the next scene is also this event. As the reader, you can start to imagine the next scene, but the details have not been revealed yet. The point of these scenes in the storyline is to build a pretext for Byron's interaction with Dana. In the real world people don't just meet each other and interact without some degree of connection. Interaction is a process and this process gives play to future and other potential interactions. The point of this and the rest of the scenes in the first chapter are to give a reason for Byron's interest in Dana. There is much more to building scenes. I'll give some more examples tomorrow.

See more writing secrets at

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel,,,, thefoxshonor, aseasonofhonor.

No comments:

Post a Comment