Writing a novel

Posted: January 10, 2017 in Posts on books and writing

WRITING A NOVEL

4. SCENES

A quick recap.

I’ve already written blogs covering three of ‘Seven Components of Novel Writing’. Below is the fourth. Here’s the FULL list:

  1. CORE– Who is the Main Character, what’s their goal, problem, obstacles, what are the stakes for failure? In 50 words; yes, I keep this to 50 words. Concentrates the mind!
  2. OUTLINE– Two pages max. Written in present tense, with a start, middle and end. Split into key scenes with short headings. Leave room for the story to evolve.
  3. MAIN PLOT– Spine of the story, the heart of the MC’s journey. Sub-plots add complexity and richness. The main plot (and sub-plots) summaries need only be a sentence or two.
  4. SCENES– Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.
  5. CHARACTERS– Absolutely critical. The reader must care about these people.
  6. SETTINGS– Give ‘colour’, atmosphere, they complement characterisation, add credibility and context whether real or fictional places.
  7. SYNOPSIS – Comes at the end because a synopsis is a ‘selling’ tool; your book summary. You write a synopsis when you’ve finished your book. (I include it as part of planning because you’ll need it for submissions).

 

SCENES

In this FOURTH  blog in the series, I’ll focus on my fourth COMPONENT in WRITING A NOVEL, namely writing SCENES. 

 

What is a scene?  

Scenes are the building blocks of the novel. These are where the action is. As you write scenes you are writing your book.

I find that I need a scene plan to give me prompts to flesh out the scene. When I am writing the scene I follow the plan but not as if it were a ‘tablet of stone’ – no, I let the writing flow and don’t permit the plan to be a strait-jacket, more a rough track that becomes a defined path as the writing progresses. To give completeness to a scene I use a checklist – I call it my ‘Easyview Scene Planner’. Here it is and I’ll go through how it works.

I write my first draft using Microsoft One Note – it’s free and having experimented with other writing tools including Scrivener – a great tool by the way that many writers swear by- but one I found over-complicated. (I’m a simple soul who likes things simple).

 

EASYVIEW SCENE PLANNER (Enter here brief scene description, scene number, word count)

FOR EACH SCENES ASK; WRITE THIS SCENE PLAN BELOW – REVISE DURING WRITING
Why? PURPOSE: Show viewpoint character – who? Chasing goal which is?
What? ACTION: Through the main plot/sub-plots? Which in this scene are?
Who? VIEWPOINT CHARACTER is? Show traits, develop character. Other characters?
How? CONFLICT: What are the Internal/External obstacles to the main character’s goal?
Where? SETTING: Where are we? Define early in scene. Create atmosphere?
When? TIMELINE: Day, night, season, time since last scene?? Define early
Hook HOOK: Why read on? Entice, intrigue, engage  – dazzle reader
 

 

 

KEEP WRITING FOCUS ON:

·        PROTAGONIST’S PROBLEMS, FIGHTING OBSTACLES AND FINAL GOAL

·        Use external action-character reaction units (instinctive, dilemma, decision)

·        Use active verbs, min adverbs/adjectives, pace sentences, concrete not abstract words use senses, show-don’t tell, eke info, intrigue, balance action/description/dialogue.

·        Use the senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell

·        Explore emotions – anger, fear, elation, sadness, love,hate, disgust, happiness, etc.

 

I fully expect some will say this is far too detailed and will inhibit creativity. I understand that view although I think this grid can be adapted and modified to suit individual tastes.

I tried a few more basic approaches such as this: it works.


Scene heading:  


Viewpoint character


Goal, obstacles, conflict?


What happens?


Using this tool, I can write a scene plan in a couple of minutes – I don’t write a plan for every scene at the outset, but get the key scenes planned and written first, then fill in the rest. My key scenes are the opening scene, the inciting incident or ‘spark’ that gets the story going, turning points where the main character hits the buffers and has to change tack, tough it out, tastes success, faces despair, and of course the climax – where good triumphs over evil – or maybe vice versa!

Here’s the scene plan for the opening scene in my cop Matt Proctor novel ‘IN IT FOR THE MONEY’. (See below)

EASYVIEW SCENE PLANNER

  1. 1. Bookmaker Harry McGeady’s murder in Birmingham betting shop

 

FOR EACH SCENES ASK; WRITE THIS SCENE PLAN BELOW – REVISE DURING WRITING
Why? PURPOSE: Show viewpoint character – who? Chasing goal which is? Grab attention, introduce cop Matt Proctor (likes a bet), start spine story, introduce problem for MP (McGeady’s murder), set tone, atmosphere.
What? ACTION: Through the main plot/sub-plots? Which in this scene are? Proctor collects winning bet, shop raided, cash handed over to two  balacala’d bikers, McGeady shot dead in face.

Senses: Red blood, salty, loud gunshot, tv blast, bike roars, cigarette smells,  p/mint gum, sphincter gone, cold floor, hot outside

Who? VIEWPOINT CHARACTER is? Show traits, develop character. Other characters?  DCI Matt Proctor
How? CONFLICT: What are the Internal/External obstacles to the main character’s goal? MP versus  gang, MP versus teller, MP v ‘demons’
Where? SETTING: Where are we? Define early in scene. Create atmosphere? Int. bookies, tv’s on, newspapers on wall, tinny speakers, tawdry
When? TIMELINE: Day, night, season, time since last scene?? Define early  June, summer, hot and sunny
Hook HOOK: Why read on? Entice, intrigue, engage  – dazzle reader MP’s good mood shattered, jolted, injured, angry, his snout murdered.
KEEP WRITING FOCUS ON:

·        PROTAGONIST’S PROBLEMS, FIGHTING OBSTACLES AND FINAL GOAL

·        Use external action-character reaction units (instinctive, dilemma, decision)

·        Use active verbs, min adverbs/adjectives, pace sentences, concrete not abstract words use senses, show-don’t tell, eke info, intrigue, balance action/description/dialogue.

·        Use the senses, sight, sound, taste, touch, smell

·        Explore emotions – anger, fear, elation, sadness, love,hate, disgust, happiness, etc.

 

I intend pulling these blogs together into a compact ‘how-to’ book provisionally called ‘The Quick Novel Writer’ and publish it later this year – possibly as a free giveaway. Website header collage straightPicMonkeyThanks and keep looking in, folks!

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