Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Studying Scene and Sequel: Installment 2

To start our exploration of the scene component of the Scene and Sequel method of writing, we should first visit the definition of a scene.

According to Jack M. Bickhman, he states the definition of a scene in Chapter 4 of his book Scene & Structure as:
"It's a segment of a story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story "now." It is not something that goes on inside a character's head; it is physical. It could be put on the theatre stage and acted out."

With that in mind, lets look at the three main components of a scene according to Jack M. Bickham.

1) Goal -- Every scene needs a scene goal and this scene goal must be directly related in some way to the POV character's desired attainment of their overall story goal. It must be specific enough that the character and reader will know for certain by the end of the scene if the goal was met or not. This scene goal forms a scene question in the readers mind which must be answered by the end of the scene.

2) Conflict -- Anyone who has looked at writing fiction knows that conflict is a huge component to keeping the reader interested. So make your moment-by-moment, acting-out-now scenes with external conflict that causes not only the characters but the reader to worry that not only the scene goal will not be accomplished, but also that the story goal seems to be that much less attainable.

3) Disaster -- That would be the final twist in the given scene that provides a new setback to the character achieving their goal. It might be a disaster such that the answer to the scene goal is a simple "No" and thus the character must go in a totally new direction. Or it could be a "Yes, but" answer in which the character has to decide if the new strings attached are acceptable or not. At the very least those "strings" should lead the character into further conflict. Or the disaster could answer the scene goal question with a "No, and furthermore" answer. But in this case, you must be sure to leave enough room with the "furthermore" to not have ended the story right then and there, unless of course, this is your final page of your novel and you want a disastrous ending.

It would be a good exercise to take a look at a novel you're working on and see if you can spot these three elements in any given scene. If you don't, then how could you rewrite it such that they do become evident?

In the next installment we'll take a look at the elements of sequels.

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