Sick Of Stumbling Through Scenes?
Take Two Books And Call Me Tomorrow
Over on Scribophile, a common refrain is how to balance things in a scene – and they usually list dialog, description and action. For some reason they almost never list thoughts and sensations.
I wrote my entire first draft, all 84 scenes with only the most rudimentary understanding of scene construction, stuff I’d learned in Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure, but I didn’t know what I was doing from one scene to the next. Then I discovered two books that changed my entire writing approach.
Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make A Scene proposes ten scene types – action, climax, contemplation, dialog, dramatic, epiphany, final, first, flashback, and suspense. She breaks down each scene type into openings, middles, and endings, and provides hints and approaches to create desired effects. It was funny because I knew from reading and watching film that action scenes looked very different from scenes where the POV broods about a disaster, plus several other. Once I got this book I knew the recipe for making whatever scene type I needed.
Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book teaches four layers to a scene – action beats, description, dialog, and internalities (physical and emotional sensations, thoughts, inner monologue). The book is very dry but has wonderful writing exercises. One of the tricks I learned was to color code scenes as I analyze them. I mark each of the scene layers in a different highlight color and I can see where my layers are thick and thin.
I was about to plunge into my WIP’s second revision when I discovered these two books. They made such an impact on me I delayed my next revision by two months so I could absorb what they offered me. And I’ve never regretted it.