One of my former Christian Writer’s Guild mentors is named Sandra, but she is the not same Sandra Scofield who wrote The Scene Book, A Primer for the Fiction Writer. My Sandra recommended it to me to help me craft scenes better. I haven’t read all of it yet, but I will be. The book offers examples and information on how to construct scenes in your novel. Every chapter has exercises to help you incorporate what you’ve learned into what you’re writing.
Let’s look at it.
PART ONE – The Scene Primer
The first four chapters take you from basic concepts about scenes to a place where a scene converges and turns, learning how actions add up in a scene to a scene’s central even and “beats.”
An example: from page 42 “Beats are small units of character action and reaction…The term refers to the way one breaks down events into small steps of action, making it possible to evaluate whether those steps move the action effectively toward the culmination of the scene.”
PART TWO – The Heart of a Scene
The next four chapters take from feeling the pulse of a scene to creation of tension, giving an alternative viewpoint of a conflict, and writing with your senses to make a scene more appealing.
An example: from page 73 “You build tension by holding back information from the reader, introducing questions and intensifying concerns about the answers, and making the reader uneasy about the harmony of relationships.”
PART THREE – Useful Scene Skills
Chapters 9 – 11 deal with character response, establishing scene elements with a great opening, and working with big scenes with many characters.
An example: from page 143 “It is possible to pull the reader into the heart of the story, beginning in medias res (in the middle of things) without getting lost, if your opening lines offer enough details of situation, setting and potential conflict.
PART FOUR – Moving to Independent Study
The last three instructional chapters help you learn to read scenes as a writer, how to evaluate your own writing, and using scenarios as a helpful accessory to planning narratives.
An example: from page 183 “Identify the scene’s problems – Does your scene have any of these problems (listed on p. 184)? All of them can be “fixed” if the scene is basically strong. These concepts are all discussed the book, so if you see a problem – tackle one at a time, review the principles governing a particular skill, and approach the scene revision optimistically.”
Also included in the book are sample scenes, and a list for further reading recommended by the author.
Do you have trouble writing scenes? I’ve had to delete many scenes that didn’t go anywhere, that didn’t advance the story, even though they were pleasant to read. If you’re a writer, leave a comment and let me know what you think about scenes.