Writing Scintillating Scenes––Part VIII

When writing your first draft, it’s more important to get the story out. Once that’s done, you’ll want to go back and add detail, character responses, and insert any needed description. That’s the importance of revision. Learn to balance your scenes with activity and character response. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

What we’ll look at this time is how activity differs from action, and define “grounding” for a scene.

First of all, a scene needs to be grounded. What’s the setting? Is it a room? Outdoors? A park bench? A restaurant? And where are the characters in relation to each other? Are they close to each other––or is one on the retreat during the scene?

Secondly, give each of your characters some sort of idiosyncrasy. How do they carry themselves? Do they have nervous habits or twitches you can use? In the original series “MacGyer,” Jack Dalton’s left eye always twitched when he was lying. Mac had known Jack long enough to know that.

Third, visualize the scene as it plays out in your head. Use your observation skills in real life to remember and maybe even jot down more interesting actions and ways to describe something, so you can use them in a scene. Rich details can come from these observations.

It is true of many writers, both beginning and experienced, that early drafts are devoid of details. I’m currently working on my second novel, and I know in my head the basics of the scene, but not all the details. So, I write the dialogue and major stage directions, knowing that when I go to revise, I’ll fill in the blanks, so to speak, and enrich my scenes.

How much is too much? Take a look at the following seven things.

  1. Give readers just enough activity detail to picture the setting, but don’t overdescribe.
  2. Don’t emphasize minor characters in any scene.
  3. Use activity to introduce rhythm in dialogue.
  4. Leave out the obvious. Actions should be fresh and distinct.
  5. Ask yourself the purpose behind each beat.

Balancing Action and Response

Choose a scene you really like, type it out. Go through the scene to see how the following components is developed or used (not all will be). Choose a character response.

  1. Action: What happens? Is the action large or small?
  2. Reflection of a character regarding the action.
  3. Reflection of a character about a relevant past aspect
  4. Expression of #2 and/or #3 in dialogue
  5. Internal character responses––feelings, thoughts, etc.
  6. Interior emotional response which leaks or bursts into the action. (projection of feelings?)
  7. Emotional response leading a character to question (aloud or internally) to form new goal.

Details. We need them in literature, but nowadays readers are more sophisticated. They like only enough detail to ground them in the scene. They’ll supply some of the details from their own experience. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

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