Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Author Hank Quense offers insights on Scene Design

Some of my guests are more than fiction or non-fiction writers.  they are also teachers and share their know how through great books that can help anyone become a better writer.

Fantasy Author Hank Quense shares his knowledge and routine about Scene Design.  Visit Hank online at Hank Quense.com

One process that is rarely explained in depth in fiction writing books is scene design.  I'll briefly describe several aspects of scene design in this post.  These come from Chapter Nine in Build a Better Story which explores this topic in more depth

As part of the structure, scenes must have a goal that should be satisfied or, at a minimum, show progress before the scene ends.  This goal must be designed to advance the story toward the ultimate aim of solving the plot problem and demonstrate how the characters are going about it.

The structure of the scene restricts it to a specific time and place with a defined set of characters. Thus, if the scene is set in Manhattan during the morning rush hour, a different scene will be necessary to show any action taking place in Baltimore late at night.  A different scene may also be necessary to show a character in Manhattan's evening rush hour.  The point here is to demonstrate that the scenes have geographical and temporal boundaries.

A scene usual starts with the scene's main character, almost always the scene's viewpoint character, facing a situation with a definite goal that appears to be attainable.  This goal, once achieved, must move the story toward the ending, but achieving this goal doesn't necessarily have to take place in this single scene.  There may be quite few scenes delineating the struggle to attain this goal.
A scene must contain conflict of some sort.  It doesn't have to be a ferocious fistfight, but the conflict, physical or emotional, must be real to the characters.

A basic requirement for a scene is to include an emotional change in the POV character.  If the character's emotion is positive at the beginning of the scene, then it should be negative at the end.  As an example, Character A feels good a the start of the scene.  By the end of the scene, he must be in a funk because an unexpected obstacle arose and derailed his scheme to fix things.  Similarly, if the character's love life is grand at the scene opening, it should be on the rocks at the end of the scene.  Or if the couple starts out fighting or arguing, they should be smooching by the end of the scene.
A scene that goes emotionally from plus to minus should be followed by a scene that goes emotionally from minus to plus.  The point is to put the reader's emotions on a roller-coaster so that those emotions are never stable very long.

Great tip!  Thanks so much for sharing this great info Hank.  

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