I posted on October 22, 2021 an article about beginning a scene with action. Continuing that, we move to beginning a scene by creating a question in the reader’s mind. This doesn’t mean that author asks a question in the first paragraph. All it means is the situation at the beginning of the scene is done in such a way that the reader must continue reading in order to find the answer to what the information at the beginning of the scene is hinting. See the example below.
Example Dan did a double take as he glanced up at two women, a blond and a redhead, entering the club. He’d seen the blond female before but couldn’t place her. Maybe she was only a face in the crowd. A nudge on his right shoulder interrupted his thoughts.
“Hey,” said Dwayne with growing impatience. “You joinin the rest of the gang or what?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Dan turned back to the two women, but they’d disappeared. Shooting a glance in each direction proved fruitless. He ran outside and peered in each direction to no avail.
The rest of the evening, though full of laughter all around, continued to plague him as his thoughts returned to the blond.
The reader is left with a couple of questions: 1. Who is the blond woman? 2. Why is she so important? There is enticement here. One wants to continue reading to find out who she is and what is the situation behind his familiarity of her. No action is really needed here. Although, one could easily add some to increase the velocity of the story pace.
Do you get stuck in places within your story/manuscript? Do you sit and wonder what went wrong during the writing of your story after everything had been going so smoothly? Why did you get stuck all of a sudden? Why the brick wall that popped up and hit you head on?
Maybe it has to do with information being in the wrong place. As you know, a novel/story is broken down into three acts with act two being broken down into two parts (the chase and the attack). What happens when you are writing and part of what you wrote should be in another act and not the one you are currently writing in? You get stuck. The story is no longer clear in your mind. The result is, you sit in front of your manuscript wondering what to write next, or you try to figure out what happened that put a stopper in your otherwise smooth writing experience. The answer could be, part of what you wrote belongs in another act. So, try to move your text in question by trying in out in another act. If it is something that belongs in act three, and you have not written act three yet, save it off to the side for later.
Another answer is that it does belong in the act you are currently writing, but it is in the wrong chapter. For example, for a couple weeks I was stuck on a couple of back to back chapters. The story was making no sense to me. The clarity was not there, and up to that point it had been. Then I realized that one of those chapters belonged in front of a chapter three chapters up, so I moved it. This particular chapter had two scenes in it. Both had the same two characters in it, but time elapsed between the first scene and the second. When I moved the chapter up three chapters, everything began to make more sense. Then, when I started reading the second scene within the moved chapter, it made no sense anymore. I sat and played around with the chapter in my head and after about five minutes, I realized that the second scene within that chapter belonged in another chapter further down, so I moved the second scene in that chapter down two chapters and put it as a second scene within its new chapter. A-HA!!! Now everything made sense.
So, next time you get stuck, before you delete and start over, move your text around.
You’re writing a scene with an event that should strike your main character as surprising or distressing. BUT instead your character reacts in a way that makes no sense at all. Maybe you had your character have to shoot an intruder and it was the first time they had to shoot anyone. How would a person normally react in a situation like that, if it was their first time having to shoot someone?
Make sure your character who is going through that for the first time reacts the right way. If, for example, they walked away from the above situation behaving as though it was no big deal, then there better be a logical reason for them doing so. I say this because I know I would freak out if I had to shoot someone. Or I’d panic. Maybe others would become despondent or go into shock.
If your characters reactions don’t match the situation, the readers will know, and they’ll get distracted from the story. You don’t want that. It could even cause them to put it down, and you definitely don’t want that.
One way to begin a scene is to start with some kind of action. Readers love action. Not everyone though. Back in the day when the first movie of Speed came out with Keanu Reeves, it was heart stopping action from the word ‘go’. The elevator scene at the beginning of the movie left me breathless. Those of you who saw that movie know what I’m talking about. I then recommended the movie to my mom who, after watching the elevator scene, stopped watching the movie because it was too much of a thrill ride. God bless her. She tried.
Essentially, any scene where events are flowing at a constant/continuous pace is an action scene. Some good ways to depict action in your story include:
Use shorter sentences. They are easier to comprehend, and they allow for faster reading which leads to faster action (You want this).
Use a mixture of action and dialogue. Stay away from long descriptions. It slows down the action.
Don’t write what is going on inside the character’s mind at the time. These thought processes will happen before and after but not during.
Here are some types of scenes that lead to action:
A character or characters faced with a choice and either option is equally as tough.
When I was in high school, I went to the Rueben Daniels Center of the Arts and Sciences. In my dance class we learned about theme and variation. What we had to do was choreograph a dance routine that was about one minute in length. Once we had our routine down, we had to choreograph two more dance routines based on the first one. More precisely, they had to be variations of the first by modifying it somehow without changing it completely. With writing this can also be done. Create a scene. Then, create two more scenes by varying the first scene. But, don’t vary things too drastically. It needs to be clear that your varied scenes are essentially the first scene but with slight differences.
What does this do? It works at developing creativity. It’s like a brain workout except its “bench pressing” words instead. So…have fun with it and think outside the box.
When you’re writing, whether it’s a short story, a novel, or a poem, do you pay attention to what is going on around you when you aren’t writing? Sometimes I’ll write down what I hear/see in my journal for later use and sometimes I don’t. Most times I remember. I know what you must be thinking. “How can you remember all that?” Well, I don’t. It isn’t until I’m writing a scene, and what I’m writing triggers a memory of something I saw or heard, then if it fits the scene, I use it. But, most often it’s only snippets of a conversation or something I saw that I end up using. Journals are a wonderful thing though and can contain a treasure trove of useful info. Take what you can from real life and mold it like clay.
The pictures below of are my journal for my novel The Triunix of Time. As you can see from the warn tabs and such, it’s been used quite a bit.
Do you listen to anything while you are writing? More specifically, do you listen to music while you write? I have found that it helps inspire certain types of scenes. For example, if you are writing a romantic scene, you might listen to some easy listening type of music. Also, if you need inspiration for danger within a scene, you could listen to music that brings across that feeling of foreboding.
Years ago I was listening to some music while writing some poetry. As a happy surprise, when reading the poem later after it was finished, I was told by others that they could “hear” a song while reading it because there was a cadence to the words as they read them.
Add music to your “playdough” mix of words. The results may surprise you.
We write and we edit. We try to get the story on paper or the computer screen, then we go back when we’re finished and edit what we’ve written. That’s how it’s supposed to be done anyway. Does that always happen in that order? No. Not always. There are times when we try to edit as we type. The left side of our brain wants to insert itself at the same time our right side of the brain is trying to be imaginative and creative. This process can cause you to slow down when you’re trying to come up with a story.
Let’s say you’re a paragraph into writing a scene. So far you like it, but then the analytical side of your brain (left) is saying ‘No, no. That won’t work’. You go back and rewrite parts of that paragraph. You like what you came up with and move on to the next paragraph. You’re a couple of sentences into the second paragraph when your analytical side starts rethinking what you rewrote in the first paragraph. So, you go back and look at it but aren’t sure how you want to fix it. You end up sitting there thinking. Your fingers start strumming on your desk and you lean back in your chair and stare at the ceiling. An hour later you haven’t fixed anything, nor have you moved on with your writing. Had you waited to fix what your analytical side of your brain wanted to fix, you would have been MUCH further on in your story. You may have even gotten a chapter done.
How many of you can relate to the scenario above. I know it’s happened to me at times. So, how do we turn off the left side of our brain and make its impatient self wait? It’s quite easy actually. You make it wait. Turn it off. If you don’t like something you’ve just written, make a note of it so you can go back at a later date and fix it when you’re not writing. Choose a specific day and time when that’s all you’re going to do is edit and fix.
Loosen the “rope” when you’re creating and “tighten” it back up when you’re editing.
Sometimes we put up barriers when we write. This is different for everyone. Some of us analyze too much, while others plan too much. Yet some may strive for perfection before moving on. My barrier is the analyze thing. I question everything. Not that questioning things is bad to do. We should do that, but when you continue questioning whether what you wrote or in which place a scene/scenes was put, it takes up precious writing time.
Another author I follow and get advice from, told of a first time writer working on his first novel. This young writer asked his advice on his first chapter. So the author read the young writer’s first chapter and ended up being very impressed with it. He asked for more. The young writer didn’t have anymore to show, as he had been working on the first chapter for months trying to get it just right/perfect. The author shook his head and told the young writer to stop striving for perfection. Why? If you do that, you will never get your book written. As long a time it took him to get chapter one finished, he could have had multiple chapters finished had he focused more on getting the story out.
The first draft doesn’t have to be perfect. You just need to get the story written. When that first draft is finished, THEN go back to square one and change what you don’t like. This may be difficult at first, but with practice of letting go and letting the story unfold as it comes, perfection will take a back seat eventually.