Today I attended the above workshop 10 am to 4pm. It was a day well spent. The title of the workshop was ‘Making a Scene’. Nikesh broke writing a novel down into its component parts until we reached the scene and then went into great and precise detail about how to go about writing the scene to achieve readability and movement in the story. At first I was like, ‘Oh no not a formula, not a recipe!’ but soon came to see that one needs to see a clear path through one’s story from opening gambit through to resolution (the end or the transition to book 2). I believe my writing will be improved by listening to his words.
Let me see if I can give you an overview…Hmmmmm…
Okay you start by looking at the big picture – the book. The book has a plot made up of a beginning (Act I), a middle (Act II) and an end (Act III). Each of those Acts is made up of chapters; the chapters are made up of one or more scenes. Each scene is like a mini story and when they are all strung together, interspersed with the occasional narrative summary, they magically become a book.
BUT you have to structure your scene well, so it grips the reader and makes them want to read further; so it draws them into the story and they believe in your world; so they empathise with your protagonist (hero/heroine).
You have to make some decisions:
Whose point of view are you going to write from?
What is the goal?
What is stopping the protagonist achieving that goal?(This is just a scene remember so this particular goal is a short-term goal, which the protagonist is hoping will help achieve the ultimate goal, which will be the end of the book.)
Do they brilliantly succeed at this goal, making for a pretty boring read, or do they fail, have a problem or partially succeed, which is much more interesting maybe even intriguing?
All of the points above are part of an action: something happening. If something happens it has an effect on the protagonist and their quest. That is the sequel or reaction.
The action causes an immediate emotional response because of its result; the protagonist then calms down and considers his/her alternatives. She makes a decision which causes something to happen (an action), which causes a response and so on building up to a climax.
So, each scene is made up of an action and its sequel.
There was a lot more in depth stuff as well but I’m tired now and so will shut up soon, but just to finish. Nikesh emphasised that each scene has a structure that follows the points below.
- A minor quest
- An obstacle or conflict
- A critical choice
- A minor climax – either a failure, victory or partial victory
- With the result that a decision is made to pursue the next minor quest.
There you go a little bit of what I learned today. If you are interested in learning more about writing Nikesh suggests you read ‘Techniques of the Selling Writer’ by Dwight V. Swain and ‘Scene Structure: Elements of Fiction Writing’ by Jack Bickham.
Well, that is all for me tonight. Later.