Scenes, The Puzzle Pieces to the Bigger Picture

BOSSWith Nano being only a few days away, I’ve had a few people on twitter ask me to clarify how I write scenes.

To clarify, everyone writes different. Some people start with a bottle of wine and caress the keyboard until the right words feel like they belong in the prose, while others plot and outline for days or weeks before a single sentence appears. Whatever way you choose is up to you. There is no wrong way to write. Choose a style and dosage that works for your system. You know your own creativity best. I’m only here to give you more options and ideas for trying new and exciting paths to opening up the floodgates – nothing more.

Scenes are one of these types of things writers like to over-complicate for a variety of reasons. Instead of getting into a pissing argument, I’ll just say there is no wrong way to write a scene. One of my best friends thinks of scenes more like small episodes of a television show leading to a bigger journey. He’s not wrong, in the slightest. But not everyone visualizes their projects the same way.

I tend to think of scenes more along the lines of quests in an RPG. Think of World of Warcraft, and each quest has its own little story along with the task assigned. That’s how I fit them all together in my head.

Essentially, it boils down to this: scenes are small tasks or small stories that all fit together to help build the main protagonist or antagonist to their larger goal. If the scene does not benefit the story in this way, look into cutting it from the manuscript during a subsequent edit.

Looking further into a dissection of an actual scene, one can see that each scene is very much like a quest in a video game. There are two primary types of scenes: a disaster, where the POV character fails to reach the goal, and the reaction, where the POV character makes a decision to keep going based on what happened during that scene.

We can cut these down even further:

Disaster scenes look like the normal typical scene for all purposes. The POV has a goal to achieve throughout the scene, they come across some conflict, and they fail. The point is that the POV needs to fail. No one wants to see characters who always win – that’s not exciting. If everyone always wins and everyone always succeeds, there’s not much point to the story, is there? Going back to my RPG Warcraft quest scene scenario, my main character accepts the quest, sets out to achieve the goal of the quest, becomes embroiled in some conflict that prevents them from achieving the quest, and then grows because of this event. Or, if they do actually achieve the quest, they realize it was a trap and now they have to get out of the turbulence from the evil person who planted the trap.

Reaction scenes are a entirely different from disaster scenes. Reaction is usually the emotional following to the disaster. Think of it as the “touchy-feely-purgatory where everyone talks about what just happened.” The “Oh my Gods, what did we just do?”-type mentality. These are the scenes where you show the heartbreak and distress the journey takes on the characters and how they mentally begin breaking down. This is where the poetic license begins to flourish in creative writing. Reaction scenes start with the characters themselves reacting – usually about what just happened, as I’ve mentioned. Then they follow with the “Well, what do we do NOW?” type attitude of “There’s no where we can go! Every path we can take has blood-thirsty venomous hydras throwing explosive teddy bears filled with flying spiders!” Until the group finds one deadly and dangerous path that no one in their right-mind would ever take. But since this group is on their last wish and out of options, the decision (this is the key here – the only decision left is a very bad one,) leads to another quest or disaster.

And that’s how the chain of scenes write themselves.

For many people, writing scenes gives them a chance to create the pacing required for the reader to breathe and almost control how the story flows. For me, this helps me organize everything as it puts the puzzle together, and hopefully level up my character.

-Chris

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