How To Make A Scene

Building Your Novel One Scene at a Time

Scene Progression

State the goal of your Lead at the beginning of each scene. What does she want? What does he need? How does he plan to acquire the thing he wants? What will she give up for the thing she wants? This “want” is your Lead’s stake in the ground.

Promise pain through foreshadowing (tears, heartache, physical discomfort)

Deliver pain through action (show your Lead suffering)

 

Progress from goal to conflict, disaster, character development (how does she grow?)

 

Suspense is anticipation, so announce the reward for your Lead early in the scene

 

Restate your Lead’s goal as necessary (halfway through)

 

 

Never let your Lead relax for too long

 

 

Increase the risk of failure (towards the end of the scene add-to the penalties for failure)

Tension comes from unresolved conflict so leave your character’s world messy

 

Promise the payoff for that scene, then delay the payoff until later in the story.

 

 

Deliver a payoff, but not the thing your Lead sought

 

 

 

A Novel IdeaExcerpted from A Novel Idea.

From the Author

For ten years I’ve sat across the appointment table with authors who pitch me their project. When I ask:

“Who’s your main character?”
“What’s the inciting incident in Act One?”
“What is the main character’s call to action and how do they deny this call?”
I often get blank stares.

I wrote this book so authors could review their project and fix their story: or, in many cases, toss the story and begin a new novel.

I quote from successful authors and screenwriters because these individuals have mastered the craft of writing. There is nothing new in this book that you cannot find in a library full of writing books. I have simply compiled the essential elements of a novel into one book.

I teach from this book at writers conferences. Some authors say it helps them organize their novel. You decide if it helps you.

Creating Compelling Characters

From the book "A Novel Idea"

A Novel Idea - Learn How to Write a Novel in Under 60 MinutesWhat makes a character compelling? Simple. Something happens to them. Even if you despise your (_____), you enjoy telling others about his failures. “Did you hear what happened to my ex? He got busted for…” We love to loath, meddle in the affairs of others, and watch them fail. Our participation in their lives expands our world, which explains part of what fuels reality TV.

 

CHARACTERS MUST…
• Reveal heart
• Face obstacles
• Pick paths
• Make a discovery
• Reveal a secret

Characters Conquer Mountains

For your characters to be likable they should be witty, charming, wise, friendly, empathetic, authentic, encouraging, secure, or vulnerable. If your lead is perfect she’s boring, so give her both redeeming qualities and flaws so the reader can relate.

Give Your Lead Goals 
• What does she want?
• What is she willing to do to reach her goal?
• What WILL she do to reach that goal?
• What is she willing to sacrifice?
• What happens if the she fails?
• Is your Lead larger than life?
(Does he lay in the middle of highway, hang from a Ferris wheel, and rebuild an old house for the girl he loves?)

Want, Need, Motivation
If the reader questions why a character reacts in a certain way, then you’ve lost credibility. There are two reasons your characters act “out of character.”
1. There is no clear motivation for the character to perform the action.
2. The motivation provided isn’t sufficiently developed.

That’s the start of character development. Question: Is your character such that others cheer for you?

Dramatic Dialogue

Writing Dialogue for Scripts and Novels

Dramatic DialogueA scene is: Doing (Action), Thinking (Narrative), and Talking (Dialogue)

Obviously, we can’t know what others are thinking. We can see them moving, doing, and we find that interesting, but when they speak, we listen. The cell phone rings and we answer it. A loud speaker blares and we pause.

Talk is not cheap. Talk is tension.

A writer has a number of tools for story building: narration, action, description, and dialogue.

Description and narration will move it slowly, steadily, and easily along. Think literature.

Action and dialogue will speed it along—dialogue more so than action. When characters start talking, the story starts walking.

Dialogue reveals theme. “Sometimes the right course demands an act of piracy.” In the movie Pirates of the Caribbean, Jack Sparrow actually states the theme of the story in dialogue. When possible, allow your main character to speak the theme through dialogue.

Function of Dialogue

Dialogue reveals the character’s motives and opposing agendas. A dialogue scene propels the story into high gear. We love to eavesdrop; through words we reveal our heart. We introduce our characters through dialogue, expose their motivation, wants and needs.

Behavior is external; motives are internal. Dialogue presents both at once.

Elements of Dialogue

For dialogue to work it must:
Sound right for each character. There are four aspects to consider:

  • Vocabulary (words each character uses)
  • Words & Expressions unique to each character (establish a saying or phrase early in the story)
  • Regionalism
  • Dialect (accent)

Since dialogue is best when it is an extension of action, give your characters different agendas in a scene. Then the dialogue will take care of itself as your characters work through a problem in the scene.