By Lynette Eason
I’ve been writing for about twenty years now. It took me eight years to catch an editor’s eyes with a cold submission. That first year, I sold three books. Then a year later, sold five more. When I first started writing, I wrote off the top of my head—or by the seat of my pants. Now, my brain is much older! LOL. I need to do a little more planning to work my way through a book and have it actually make sense. One thing I was working on the other day was content for a workshop that’s coming up. I started looking at how to teach someone how to craft a scene.
I came to the conclusion that scenes were mini stories. They all need a beginning, middle and end, just like the full novel. Someone else may have already pointed this out somewhere, but it’s the first time it occurred to me. You see, I write mostly from instinct. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve studied the craft, I’ve attended the conferences and the classes and even had one of the best mentors a writer could have.
But because I write instinctively, it can be harder for me to put into words exactly how to convey a topic about writing to an audience. I have to look at exactly how I craft something and then put it into words other writers can understand. Yesterday, I was working on Scene Building and trying to put a name to the elements that every scene needs.
I finally narrowed it down to these things:
1. Purpose or motivation: This is the scene’s reason for being. Why are you including this scene in the story? How is this scene going to move the story forward? What are you trying to accomplish with this scene?
2. Suspense – It doesn’t matter if you’re writing comic relief, a thriller, an historical or a women’s contemporary novel. Every book needs suspense and intrigue. This creates tension and causes the reader to ask questions and desire to know more. It’s really what keeps the readers flipping the pages to see what happens next.
3. Fluidity – The scene has to make sense. It has to flow and not jar the reader out of the story. This is where a lot of writers make their biggest mistake and the scene doesn’t flow or there’s something illogical about it, then the reader gets frustrated at constantly being jarred out of the story.
4. Relevance of content – This is a bit different than the purpose of the scene. You can have a scene with a great purpose, but the content of the scene needs be there for a reason. If it’s not important to the scene leave it out. Start your scene in the middle of the action. Leave out the nonessential stuff and boring narrative that the reader doesn’t need. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t want your scene rich with details that give the reader a sense of time, place and being right there in the story. It’s all about balance.
5. Transition – The end of every scene must lead the reader into the next using some of that fluidity I just mentioned. Yes, you need fluidity inside your scenes, but also at the end of every scene. The transition must seem like a natural, chronological segue into the next scene or chapter. This is another even bigger mistake some writers make. When there’s no transition, then we get what editors call episodic writing. Meaning, you may have some great ideas for scenes, but that’s all they are—separate scenes that don’t seem to have any kind of connection.
6. Hook or cliffhanger – Be sure to have one of these at the end of the scene. This is what’s going to keep the reader coming back—and is also part of that whole suspense thing.
I hope you found this helpful! Good luck with all of your writing projects. Now go craft the most amazing scenes ever!
Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of Oath of Honor, as well as the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, the Hidden Identity series, and the Elite Guardians series. She is the winner of two ACFW Carol Awards, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award. She has a master’s degree in education from Converse College and lives in South Carolina. Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.