In the Hawaii workshops, we spent a lot of time talking about scenes.
First what is a scene?
Well, writers kinda stumble around on definitions like this. We sorta know what it is when we see it. But how do we put it into words?
(An aside: I find it frustrating that we don’t have the vocabulary to talk about our craft. Even for a basic thing like a scene, writers find it hard to put into words–irony intended–what we are doing. And when you get to something like voice, it’s even harder. We need to work harder to find vocabulary for our craft.)
A scene is a connected series of actions that lead up to something. Notice, is is actions. It’s not just dialogue or narrative, but actions. Implied is a beginning, middle and an end. Certainly, the scene should make a difference in the story by changing something, introducing tension, developing relationships, etc.
Ok. Take the Box Test.
The Scene Box Test
Pull out a chapter of your current WIP and draw boxes around the scenes.
1. Does each scene have a series of actions?
2, Is there a beginning, middle and end?
3. Does the outcome of the scene make a difference in the story?
4. Why did you choose THIS scene? At this point in the story, why did you slow down and zoom in on details to SHOW-DON’T-TELL this particular section of the story?
5. Is there an engine, a question, a pulse, a tension, an anticipation, a something that runs through the scene and makes you want to turn the page?
I’ll tell you what I found. Unfocused scenes. Half scenes with either no beginning or no end. Too much narrative. Hey, I’m revising!
What did you find?