Seeming To Scene
I was in my favorite used book store and found The Scene Book – A Primer For The Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield. I’m working through her exercises. Chapter five emphasized pulse.
In summary, I discovered the following. A scene’s pulse is the passion and urgency that drives the character to achieve their scene goal and their story goal. Every scene should build toward the story question.
Story and scene pulse provide the constant backdrop, scene by scene, for the entire story. Everything that anyone says, or thinks, or does, should serve that end. Characters must have passion and drive to reach their goal. And anything that obscures or muddies that effort needs t be removed.
1 – Step Toward Desire. Chose a character. Put her into a situation to pursue something as a step toward the thing desired. Create an obstacle and decide whether it is overcome.
In Part Three, Scenes 17 – 19, Deheya has a strong desire to reunite with Regar, her son, who was kidnapped. Her companions prevent her from giving herself up to her kidnappers, she decides to go to her Father for help. She must overcome numerous obstacles, including the death of part of her escort contingent.
2 – You Don’t Get it! Put a character in a situation where she feels misunderstood, and describe the ways that she either tries to make herself heard, or else clams up and tries to get away unscathed.
Deheya, goes into the city slums to offer comfort, and escapes an assassination attempt. Back in the Castle, her husband, the Duke, seeks to establish guilt. She tries to defend her escort. Her husband dismisses her objections, and punishes officers. Knowing she cannot win, she incites her husband’s Uncle to intercede for an officer.
3 – Read for Desire Lines. Read favorite scenes and write a sentence describing the need or desire of the POV character. See how that desire line underlies the movement of the scene. Does the scene further the character’s progress toward the achievement, or impede it?
a. Bonnie by Iris Johansen: Gallo is trying to find out Kevin Donnelly by questioning James O’Leary. Gallo meets resistance from O’Leary, but persists. O’Leary tries to sidetrack him but Gallo keeps coming back to the main point. Gallo gets the new challenge of finding a Father Dominic, somewhere in Atlanta, clearly an impediment.
b. Home Front by Kristin Hannah: Michael is trying to run his law practice and raise his two daughters while his wife deploys to Iraq. From indirect narration we learn Michael has continued to rearrange his work and time off to accommodate raising his two daughters. He gets to deal with his daughter wanting to wear heavy makeup and very revealing clothes to be driven to the Mall by an older boy. He also has to deal with his daughter’s desire to fly the American flag to honor their mother in Iraq. Michael is unable to completely impose his will on his oldest daughter, but does get her to wear clothes and makeup which are less drastic than what he faced earlier.
c. The Body in the Bonfire by Katherine Hall Page: Faith needs to replenish cooking supplies at the school for her replacement for the weekend. She would also like to. get another look at one of the boy’s rooms. She is also trying to understand who wrote her a threatening email. She is trying to get a look, and trying to understand some of the things happening around her. She tries to find a way to get into the boy’s room without being noticed, despite several distractions. She continues to ponder who wrote the email. She is no nearer to understanding what she is up against, so she finds impediments.
d. The Prodigal Nun by Aimee and David Thurlo: Sister Agatha wants to find out who killed Jane Sanchez, and protect the Monastery. When she gets a chance to help the Sheriff’s office and be relieved of her other duties, she agrees. She gains the tools to investigate, so she is given the tools to advance. But she is also given limitations – she can travel alone but must take a guard dog. And, after dark, she cannot travel alone.
e. Last Citadel by David L. Robbins: Luis wants revenge on the Russian Army. Luis’ drive to exact revenge, shapes his approach to the battle. He is more interested in exacting Russian losses than he is in reducing German losses. He ruthlessly lets infantry survive as best they can against Russian tanks, and then uses less powerful German tanks to protect his own, until he can deliver killing blows. Luis can exact now revenge against the Russians, but does nothing to engender respect and support from his new subordinates.
4 – Escalating Desire. Think of a scene in which a character is not certain of the urgency of his desire, or what he will do about it. Let the scene be about his realization that he must act. Don’t let the scene occur inside his head only. He comes to this insight because of what happens in the scene. The faint pulse of his desire grows stronger because of what he has to do. How does the scene build that conviction?
Pia Isa, Deheya’s father, is on the horns of a dilemma. His daughter, married to the slain foreign Duke, fights a battle against superior numbers, and is in danger of failing. Pia Isa cannot act because he risks open war with the neighboring country if he crosses the river to help her.
He wants to protect his People, which conflicts with his wish to help his daughter. In the end, watching the enemy assault across the river, he becomes more and more agitated, until he can stand it no longer, and orders his armies to cross and fight, even if it means a broadening of the war
5 – The Public Pulse. Sit down and read a daily newspaper and make a list of pulses that underlie the stories you read there.
a. Sublette County smog plan praised by activists: Two years after the EPA cites gas well producers, environmentalists feel vindicated by a State Board recommended steps to stop pollution.
b. Numbers show hunters using mentor program: A State program allows many potential hunters to safely explore hunting, using mentors, before deciding to spend time and money on a hunter safety program.
c. National Park Service invites proposals for guided saddle and pack stock trips in Yellowstone: After determining that extra commercial saddle and pack stock trips in Yellowstone will not harm the environment, the National Park Service is ready to issue more ten-year contracts.
d. First Day Hikes add door prizes to event: In an effort to reward hardy hikers celebrating New Year’s Day with hikes in certain Wyoming State Parks, organizers plan to give away day use permits and the chance to win a down jacket.
e. Lawyers for Dale Eaton ask federal judge to remove possibility of new death penalty hearing: After successfully getting a State judge to set aside a previous death penalty verdict, but permitting a new proceeding, Eaton’s lawyers ask a Federal judge to block a second proceeding.
6 – Everybody’s Got A Pulse. Use characters from the Bible, from historical periods, or real members of your family and acquaintances to make statements about people who suggest pulse that might underlie stories about them. Think in terms of a story, and then try to pin down some imagined event, when the pulse “beats loudly” for your character.
a. Long a Barack Obama support, a woman becomes a Federal Judge. After a group sues to block his Presidential Order issuing a permanent visa to a man convicted of murdering his wife in Mexico, she must decide whether to hear the case or not.
b. After supporting Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful presidential bid, a woman continued to work for Hillary, first in the State Department, and then as part of her team to run for President again. When Senator Elizabeth Warren begins to make moves to become president, she must chose between old loyalties and more exciting hopes.
c. Attracted to an NFL player, a woman becomes his live-in girl friend. After he physically abuses by her, she finds herself used as a bargaining chip by team owners and players fighting for control of the league.
7 – Look At Your Own Stories. State the pulse in a sentence. Choose a scene and restate the pulse, making it specific to that part of the story. Now look at every aspect of the scene to see if it contributes to the pulse. How could you improve the scene by intensifying the pulse?
Part 3 Scene 17. When Deheya awakens the next morning, she desperately wants to give herself up to her son’s kidnappers to be with him. Thwarted, she decides to wait for more help.
a. She doesn’t completely understand her son is missing until paragraph 11. I might want that to move up.
b. I don’t make the stake sufficiently clear early on, that they cannot make noise or give their position away.
c. I could make those around her tense up more, expecting her to give their position away.