How to Write a Scene: Part 1
The Blank Page
Is there anything that strikes fear* into a writer's heart more than this simple object? Well, I've got your back writing ninjas because today we are diving into 'How to start a scene'. I've listed five things to think about when diving into the world of scene creation, Asking the Right questions, Action, Staying true, Act first and Descriptions.
At the end I've created a rather lovely, (if I say so myself) Round Up graphic that you can pin, post or push into your grey matter. I don't judge.
*Well I am somewhat scared of an aggressive, free-market capitalist system bending over our post-World War II social justice consensus and destroying it. And the sea, it knows what it did.
Asking The Right Questions
After we have made a coffee/tea/fortified wine but before we start typing, ask yourself a couple of questions.
What is the point of the scene? How does it move the story along, how does this add to the themes, to the plot? Is it introducing characters, settings? Do things change for the characters from the beginning of the scene to the end? Spending even a small amount of time asking yourself these questions will save you a bunch of time down the line, as you won't be writing scenes you don't need.
Get Straight To The Action
Each scene should recapture your reader's attention, treating the opening line like a mini hook. A great way to lure your reader in is with an action launch; no not some GI Joe plastic monstrosity, but a jump into the plot through action, rather than narration.
Now action doesn't mean everyone is kicking off, but something should happen to wet your reader's whistle. You can add drama into the 'every day', it's just the way you phrase it.
'Slipping on her nightie when the phone rang...'
'She sat and pushed in twelve wagon wheels one after the other, while she waited...'
'She hated the doctor's office...'
Think about whether the middle of your scene is actually the start.
Make Sure Action Is True
Remember your lies beauties. The above trick only works if you're consistent. Don't have dramatic events happening just for the sake of it with no consequences/never mentioning it again. Same for characterisation, don't give Jimmy the gift of the gab unless he's able to use it to get out of scraps most of the time.
Watch out for loose threads, if you mention a strange symbol on a door in the beginning of your novel, remember to give us an answer by the end.
Creating gut-punching conflict is the opposite of easy writing.
Act First: Think Later
Writing great scenes is about grabbing the reader by the brain meat and forcing them to keep reading. Action is the Boss Level at this. Action engages the reader, makes them a participant as they visualise the world you're describing, the movements of each character, feeling the dialogue spark off the page. Putting barriers in-between the reader and the action slows everything down.
Jenny felt the anger rising, clenching her fist, fighting the urge to punch him right in his mouth was strong. No, she thought, he's not worth it.
He smirked. 'You look a bit peeved.'
You deserve this, she thought, and she punched him, square in the face. He fell back, a shocked look on his face.
Nothing wrong with that right? But let's see what happens when we apply the idea of 'Act: first think later.'
Jenny felt the anger rising, clenching her fist, fighting the urge to punch him.
He smirked. 'You look a bit peeved.'
She punched him square in the face.
He fell back, a shocked look on his face.
You deserved that, she thought.
It's cleaner, puncher (sorrynotsorry for the pun) and it races the reader along. We haven't lost any information, as the first thought was already been shown with her actions. And the second thought is after the action. Creates a sharper reading experience.
Engage With Specific Details
The name of the game is immersion. We're not just painting a picture we're building a world. Tell your reader how the car always smells of cigarettes after Charlie borrows it, rather
than the fact that it's a red Vauxhall. Write about how it has a stain in the shape of Italy on the passage seat rather than it's engine size. Describe it's one fluffy dice, that bobs around all forlorn rather than 'it's messy'.
Description writing is not about describing every detail, but digging out the tidbits that will stand out in your reader's mind. The ones that will invoke a sense of a place, or of time or mood. Now that's good apple sauce.