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.
Hi Everybody. Good Morning, Good Afternoon, or Good Evening depending on the part of the world you are in. I hope your day is going well, and I wish you many blessings and peace. Please find listed below a list of writing prompts. Whether you are writing a short story or a book, or if you are looking for something to write in your journal, this list should help you.
“Did you see this? Where did it come from?” asked Paul.
I took my usual walk in the woods. The quiet and hush of the forest cleared my mind. But…..
Jade grabbed her keys and stormed out the door.
“For get it. I said you…..”
We clinked our glasses together and stared into the other’s eyes while we sipped our Chardonnay. But little did Jack know…..
Suzy hugged her teddy bear and huddled close to her mother.
“Grab the hotdogs out of the refrigerator, would you? The grill is almost ready and…..”
“Ok, hold that pose. Hold it. Hold it. Ok now. Walk over…..”
The rowboat rocked and swayed, as the waves juggled it side to side.
Walking through the mown grass, I plucked petals from the yellow rose.
“Your arms are comfortable. I wish to never move,” cooed Katie.
“It’s ok. You’re safe now,” whispered John.
His chance of winning was slim, but he had to try.
In the real world we talk everyday, and what we say and talk about at the time could be part of a directed conversation about a topic or you may move from topic to topic. But, generally, what your are saying has nothing to do with moving a story forward, as in a book. Therefore, the dialogue/conversations in a the story you are writing should move the story forward. However, it needs to be done in such a way that it sounds real and everyday. So, how do you do this? Yes, this is a lot to think about, but remember you can go back later and fix it. I’ve said this before, get the words on the page first. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.
Remember your dialogue tags. You don’t need a dialogue tag after every line of dialogue. Every now and then put one in to remind the reader of who is speaking.
Small talk is a killer. In real life we make small talk all the time for different reasons. Maybe we’re nervous and don’t know what to talk about, so we end up saying little tidbits of information to try and break the ice. In real life though, we aren’t trying to advance a story/plot. So, leave the small talk out of your dialogue, unless of course it advances your story/plot.
Keep it natural. Make sure your dialogue sounds natural. One good way to tell if it sounds natural or not is to read it out loud.
No same sounding characters. This closely relates to voice. I touched on this in a previous blog post (Voice from September 21, 2021) Make sure your characters sound different when they are speaking. Word choice, dialect, and how they say something all plays a part in this. Maybe one of your characters has a signature word they like to say. Use that.
Using names in dialogue. Normally, one wouldn’t use someone else’s name when speaking to someone else unless one is trying to get the attention of the other or make a point. However, if it DOES work, then use it. But be careful.
Using exposition can bore. When a character explains the story in dialogue it ends up being a form of telling. What happens when you ‘tell’ a story vs. ‘show’? You risk losing the reader. Obviously, you don’t want this. So, stay away from this.
Don’t use ‘said’ all the time. Please refer to my blog post Words to Write By on October 18, 2021.
Be accurate and consistent with punctuation. Some writers like to use double quotation marks (“), and some writers like to use single quotation marks (‘). Pick one and stick with it. Just don’t forget to use them. I knew a writer who, when I asked her what she felt her weakness was as it relates to story writing, said it was remembering to put the quotation marks in.
Conversation that is unimportant doesn’t belong. If a conversation between your characters doesn’t cause some kind of friction, tension, or if it doesn’t advance the story/plot at all, leave it out.
Silence is a good thing. Too much conversation can be detrimental to the story so be careful. Silence can add a lot to a conversation sometimes.
I know this is much to think about, but don’t sweat it too much. If you need someone to check your dialogue, have a writing buddy read it and give you feedback. Also there are some good books out there about dialogue. Here are some suggestions below (You can find any of them on Amazon):
You’re walking with a friend in a crowded amusement park. In your pocket are some coins, but what you don’t realize is you have a hole in your pocket. The next time you reach in to get them, you may only have a couple quarters left. The hole sucked the rest of your coins and out it went without you knowing it. Well, think of the words you write with as your hole and the reader as your coins. You want to keep your readers hooked and reading, not lost and motivated to put your story down. So…..how do you keep your readers from falling out of that hole?
Your wording should be tightened up, and condensed. In other words, don’t be wordy. It shouldn’t take you several words to get your point across. Here are some examples:
Wordy: The rushing wind hit me in the face and tossed my hair around.
Much Better: The wind slapped my hair.
In this example, both sentences pretty much say the same thing but number 1 uses more words to get to the point. Number 2 is straight forward AND it implies the wind is hitting the person in the face without having said that it is.
Wordy: In the forest it was calm. The sunbeams reached their rays through the trees, and the light was speckled throughout.
Better: Sunbeams fingered through the calm forest leaving speckled light throughout.
Here again all the words in number 1 aren’t needed in order to paint a picture of the setting. It’s boring because too many words are used to describe what few words can actually do. Not only that, but an auxiliary verb like ‘was’ only tells you about it. It doesn’t add to the picture. It takes away from it. Number 2 leaves you with a clear, strong picture in your mind.
Remember something though. When you’re writing your story, write your story. Concentrate on that. THEN, once you have your first draft finished, go back to the beginning and focus on the particulars and details like wordiness.
When it comes to writing tag lines, such as ‘said John,’ sometimes we need other words to say instead of the word ‘said’. Why? Because said gets too monotonous. And in this writer’s opinion, it can ruin the flow. It kind of takes the realism out of the dialogue. So…..what are some alternatives? See the list below.
There are much more than these, but you get the idea. Notice these words dig deeper into the mood/emotions of the speaker. That’s what you want because, what this does, is touch the readers’ emotions. That’s what you want.
When you’re in a competition, you give it your all, everything you’ve got. You may be nervous at first before you start because you want to win. You don’t want to lose. Then your mom, dad, or friend says, “Just do your best. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.” In your mind, losing is losing, not winning. But…..in your villains mind, losing is winning.
What do I mean by this? Remember in the previous post (Villains Part VI) I said villains take pleasure in the protagonist’s pain. Well, yes. If burning everything down so your main character will lose everything but gives your villain pleasure in that main character’s loss, then the destruction of all is worth it to them. Go for the gusto with your villain’s actions. Have your villain throw ‘fuel on the fire’ (so to speak) as many times as it takes to cause destruction.
Ultimately, what is the reason behind the importance of making a great evil villain? Readers who continue turning the pages of your story all the way through to the end.
Watching someone open a gift, listening to your favorite music, a day at the beach, or even a walk in the woods; might give you pleasure. Now, normally, activities like the this would. But for villains in your stories, what gives them pleasure is none of the above. Oh No. They get pleasure from the pain of others. To your villain, other peoples’ pain is climactic, exhilarating, and releases the feel good chemicals inside their brain. They thrive on seeing others’ hurt and to the point where they have to continue in their hurtful behavior so they can continue to feel that pleasure.
Types of pain they inflict can be:
Worse yet (and most preferable) a combination of all of these
When it comes to dreaming up ways your villain could possibly hurt your main character, think outside the box. Be creative about what you want them to do. What makes your villain’s actions different than others you have read about in other books. Mold them. Make their pain causing actions unique.
First Person POV: The story is told from the story teller’s point of view and uses the pronoun ‘I’, ‘us’, ‘our’, or ‘ourselves’. It can also be narrated by the protagonist/main character, witness, or side character.
Third Person POV: The story is told from outside the story and the narrator refers to the characters by name or as ‘he/she/they’ and also ‘him/her/them’. Types of third person include:
Third Person Omniscient: the narration of the story is told with a voice as if from the author. They take on an all knowing perspective on the story being told.
Example: As Rob and Janet slunk in their seats to watch the movie at the drive-in theater, he hoped he’d get lucky in the backseat of his car, and Janet secretly wished it was Dave snuggling next to her instead.
Third Person Limited: only the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character. Other characters are presented externally.
Example: He reached over to hold Jill’s hand but stopped halfway. Did she want him to, or would she slap him?
Third Person Objective: think of this POV as a peeping tom. The narrator is neutral and not privy to the thoughts or feelings of the characters’.
Example: She twisted her hands, as she paced the floor of her bedroom.
For a stronger point of view that pulls the reader into the story, use verbs that create action directly (note the bold faced words in the examples above). When you do this, emotions are created at the same time, which is felt by the reader and pulls them in even further. Now your reader is hooked. They want to know how the story is going to play out and change for the better/or worse. Have you ever read a book you can’t put down? Strong point of view is all part of that.
There have been movies about somehow waking up and one day you are a kid again. We know this can’t really happen. It’s only in the movies. But…..what if it did? What if you lived your adult life up until the age of 50 years old. You’re single but have had on and off again relationships over the years. You live in New York City. Then, one night you went to bed and woke up one morning at some point in your past. Let’s say 31 years old. The bed you woke up in was completely different, and the house you woke up in was the house you lived in in London, England, when you were that age.
What’s more disturbing is you don’t know which reality is real. Did you dream your life to 50 and you are still 31? Or are you 50 and having a dream that you went back in time? Both feel lucid, so you are unable to tell. What would you do? How would you react? How would you find out the truth? Would you even want to live your last 19 years all over again?
I know that if I woke tomorrow morning in my room at my dad’s house and it was 9 years earlier, I think I’d jump for joy. The last 9 years of my life have been great since I remarried my husband 9 years ago. I wouldn’t want to trade that for anything. So, yup, I’d want to relive it. And, yes, there are some things I’d do different. I think we all would.