Monday, January 19, 2009

Over The Fence: Plot Continued

"How's it going?" Larry asked.

"Okay, just finished working on a scene in my latest novel."

"The last time we chatted you mentioned scenes. I thought scenes were something you see in a movie."

I sipped from my can of soda. "Actually novels, and to a smaller extent short stories, are full of scenes. I think Robert McKee uses the best definition of scene in his book, STORY. He defined a scene as: action through conflict in more or less continuous time and space that turns the value-charged condition of a character's life on at least one value with a degree of perceptible significance. Ideally, every scene is a STORY EVENT."

"That's a long definition," Larry said, "can you simplify it a bit?"

"Sure, a scene is is a sequence of events that seem to happen as if the reader were watching and listening to it happen; it's built on talk and action."

"I see, so a scene is like a chapter?"

"Nope. Although there are a number of popular writers, James Patterson comes to mind, who make each and every scene a chapter; others may have several scenes in a single chapter. Chapters are just a way to divide a book into pieces. Think of a book, any book in which there are no chapter breaks. "

"I don't think I've ever come across one," Larry said.

"Stephen King used no chapter breaks in Dolores Claiborne. I believe if any one but a writer of his stature had done it the reader would struggle to finish the book. How many times have you said, I'm going to finish this chapter and call it a night? We'll get into chapters later when we discuss structure of your novel."

"Okay, getting back to scene," Larry said, "a scene is a story within the story?"

"That may or may not be true," I said, "a scene isn't random; it must have a meaning. The true measure of whether or not a scene belongs in the book is to ask yourself one simple question: Does this scene move the story forward? If it doesn't scratch it."

"Hmmmm, there's a lot to this writing stuff that I've never thought about."

I glanced at the sky and saw the sun was hovering on the western horizon. "See you tomorrow? We'll talk some more about structure."

"Wouldn't miss it."

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