Today I'm offering something different: some advice via Writer's Digest and a link to a fantastic blog post. Both of these resources made me think about upping the ante in my scenes in Half-Truths. Not so coincidentally, this is next week's topic for my "Writing for Children" class at CPCC.
First, here are seven points about narrative forces from Steven James' article, "Go Organic" in the March/April 2013 issue of Writer's Digest. He outlined the points within the article and then asked corresponding questions in a sidebar. For the sake of this blog, I'm going to list his points and then follow each with his questions to writers. His questions make a great checklist for all of us! Here is the excerpt:
"Imagine a ginat ball of clay being held by a group of people. As one person presses agains the clay, the clay's shape changes.
"The clay is your story; the people surrounding it represent the narrative forces pressing in upon it to shape it. For example:
- Escalation: The tension must continue to escalate scene by scene until it reaches a climax after which nothing is ever the same again. Does this scene ratchet up the tension of the one before it? How can I make things worse?
- Believability: The characters in your story need to act in contextually believable ways. All the time. What would this character naturally do in this situation? Is he properly motivated to take this action?
- Causality: Everything that happens must be caused by the thing that precedes it. Is this event caused by what precedes it? How can what I want to happen bow to what needs to happen for this story to work?
- Scenes and Setbacks: If nothing is altered you not have a scene. If your characters solve something without a setback you do not have a story. Have I inadvertently included scenes just for character development? Are there necessary interludes or moments of reorientation between scenes?
- Inevitability and Surprise: Each scene should end in a way that's unexpected and yet satisfying to readers. The end of every scene must be not only logical but, in retrospect, the only possible conclusion to that scene. Does this scene end in a way that's unexpected and yet inevitable? How can I ensure that readers don't see the twist coming?
- Continuity: Continuity develops through pace (the speed at which things are happening) and narrative energy (the momentum carrying them along). Do my revelations happen at the right moments in the story? Have I used foreshadowing to eliminate coincidences, especially at the climax?
- Genre Conventions: Readers enter a story with expectations based on their understanding of its genre. You need to be familiar enough with genre conventions to meet or exceed those expectations without resorting to cliches. What obligatory scenes are inherent to this genre? How can I render them in a way that's not cliched?
Just in case you need more to think about when you're creating scenes that sizzle, check out Lorin Oberweger's blog on Writing Scenes: Cooking at the Right Temperature. Like James' article, this is also chock full of the reasons you want to write high temperature scenes, and how to accomplish that.
I read that blog before and during my writing session today. It made me aware of creating conflict between my characters and taking power away from my protagonist (sorry Lillie!).
What are yours technique to create powerful, reader-gripping scenes? I'd love to hear about them!