Thursday, August 29, 2013

Step 3: Make a Scene

You should at this point have a writing plan that you are committed to, a model text that is offering you insight into and guidance on your own work, and a sort of road map of the project or projects you are working on. We have, in other words, done a lot of good preparation for writing, and a little bit of writing too. Now we get down to it...

Thought for the Day: "Don't say 'the old lady screamed.' Bring her on, and let her scream." ~Mark Twain

It's the best possible advice for fiction, and really for most kinds of writing or even speaking: show, don't tell. If you tell someone that an experience was thrilling, they will have to take your word for it. If you SHOW them that same experience through detail and dialogue, they will FEEL thrilled themselves.

How do you show rather than tell? You make a scene! Here is advice from an indispensable text in the Elements of Fiction Writing Series, Plot, by Ansen Dibell:

"Showing, in fiction, means creating scenes. You have to be able to cast your ideas in terms of something happening, people talking and doing, an event going on while the reader reads."
Thumbnail image for plot.jpgHe goes on to say, "A scene is one connected and sequential action, together with its embedded description and background material. It seems to happen just as if a reader were watching and listening to it happen. It's built on talk and action. It's dramatized, shown, rather than being summarized or talked about. In some ways, it's like a little independent story."

Below is an example, a scene of four teenagers, all of whom have been drinking, driving home on a dangerous road.

"The feeling was backwards from a roller coaster, actually. The long descent was not the scary part. But then the car, carried by its own unchecked momentum, dropped into the valley at the bottom of the first hill and lurched around a curve to begin a steep, twisting climb. They jerked left, then right, then left. It felt like skiing, Jane thought, although she had never been skiing. It felt like skiing looked. She had been watching the back of Ryan's head, but now she looked out at the trees whisking by. She wondered briefly how many animals had been killed on this road. 

Then they were at the top of another hill. Jane glanced at Jesse's feet. She couldn't tell absolutely, but it looked like he wasn't touching the gas or the brakes. He had turned the music down at some point without Jane realizing, but no one took advantage of the relative quiet to speak. They were listening to their own speed. Jane felt the back wheels leave the ground at the same time that their headlights went out. Cheryl screamed, but Jane stayed quiet, noticing how time seemed to be suspended, like darkness equaled stillness, like they were hanging in a space ship in the night. When the headlights of the oncoming car beamed into her face, she couldn't think for a second what that sudden blinding light could be."

Writing Prompt #3: Choose one of the ideas below and render it as a scene. Show. Don't tell.

1. An experience in Nature.
2. A scene of sickness or injury.
3. A young person telling a parent something he or she would rather not have to tell.
4. A conversation that turns into an argument between two people standing in a line.
5. A first day at school or a new job.

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