Basic Scene Elements

I thought it was a good time to review some essential writing basics.  This is good info for the fiction writer, but any writer could benefit,  especially from number 4,  Pulse.

The following is from “The Scene Book:  A primer for the fiction writer” by Sandra Scofield.

Four Basic Scene Elements

1.  Every scene has event and emotion.

2.  Every scene has a function.

3.  Every scene has a structure.

4.  Every scene has a pulse.  (from April:   this is a crucial piece of scene writing I had never heard described before… and is too awesome to ignore…)

1.  In a scene, there is event and emotion.  In a scene, characters do things (act and react) that “add up” meaningfully; and they feel things (have emotional and intellectual responses to the action).

2.  Every scene has a function in the narrative.  There is a reason the passage is rendered in detail rather than summarized.  There is a reason why it appears where it does in the sequence of events.  It accomplishes something for the story.  It changes something.  It makes now different from the past.

3.  Every scene has a structure:  a beginning, middle, and end.  An alternative way to think of the scene structure is this :  There is a situation at the beginning, a line of action, and then there is a new situation at the end.  Thus, the scene establishes each of these three parts.

4.  Every scene has a pulse.  Some vibrancy in the story makes the scene live on the page and makes it matter to the reader.  Look for it, dig for it, massage it, burn incense to it if you must.  Without it, your scene is a whimper.

Let me make the subtle distinction between the pulse and tension.  Pulse is emotional, an attitude, a state of desire or need.  Tension is built from action; it arises from pulse, but it must be created through conflict, whereas pulse is a kind of “steady state,” awaiting the trigger to escalate it.

So for example, let’s say I want more than anything to be a writer. I neglect other aspects of my life, my relationships, to make time for my writing.  I eat fast food and never go to the movies.  That ambition is the pulse.  Finally there’s a big argument (a scene) with my lover, who says if I’m not going to be more available to him, he’s going to move out and find someone who is.  Now there’s tension.


Perhaps in the next week or so I might post a scene for review… this is good stuff.

I wrote the story I wanted to read…

Well… not yet.  🙂 I just saw this sentence on a writer’s blog and it really struck me.  I’ve been struggling with the best idea (of the many ideas that pop into my head) for my first ever novel.  What ends up happening is that by the time I really sit and think about getting from A to Z, I’ve decided the idea sucks pickles.

(Note to self:  read the post on suckage below, yet AGAIN.)

But have I truly considered writing the story I myself would like to read?  Maybe I’ve dissed some great ideas simply because I immediately think, “Oh, nobody would be interested in that…”  Maybe I shouldn’t care so much about what others would think .

(Note to self:  look up at your blog tagline)

I will be musing this tidbit of advice over the next day.  I think there is something important bubbling beneath the surface…

The Many Stages of Suck

Brilliant article I’ve had in my files for a while… Boy, does it help to see this again!  Here’s an excerpt from

“I think a lot of new authors get really overwhelmed when they read published books because they can’t ‘write like that’. When they read the chapter or book they just finished by their favorite author, they cringe and immediately let self-doubt overtake them.

But the thing about writing is that it’s a lot like actors and actresses. Ever seen a really beautiful actress or supermodel without her makeup? Sure, lots are still stunning… but for many, it’s a sight to behold. Pimples. Bags. Wrinkles. It takes makeup and lighting for them to shine. But you’d never know that just from looking at the spread in Glamour Magazine.

The same goes for writing. There are very few authors who are able to sit down and churn out a 100,000-word romance and have the first draft be perfect. There are some, yes, but most of us go through some kind of process that gets us there. Whether they edit as they go along, or at the end. Whether they write in order or in scenes and sequels in no particular way, they have a lot of stages that get them to the keeper shelf.

So in the spirit of full disclosure, I present to you, the stages of writing… Jenna Petersen/Jess Michaels Style. Perhaps you’ll see some of your own stages of writing here:

Stage 1: Oh My GAWD, I have the best idea EVER!!
Stage 6: Oh My GAWD, I’m writing the worst book EVER!”

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