Saturday, March 24, 2018

Scene: The Big Picture

In a way, every scene resembles a bouquet. Individual elements compose both. The end result must offer a coherent whole with a clear yet unobtrusive focal point. When the elements complement each other, the totality becomes far more effective than a single contribution. It’s the difference between this:

and this:

No one would mistake a couple of flowers for a bouquet. With scenes, though, it’s less clear. Precisely what constitutes a scene?
A scene is a sequence of events that happens at a particular place and time and that moves the story forward. — Randy Ingermanson, “The Art and science of Writing Scenes”
Another slant on the scene comes from Jane Friedman:
A scene is a stylized, sharper simulacrum of reality.
Ideally, the scene integrates everything from both definitions. So a scene needs:

~ Tension.

Unless there’s substantial suspense, summarize instead.

~ Momentum.

The scene must contribute to character arc, or, again, wouldn’t summary be better?

~ Setting.

Although locale mustn’t dominate, characters need grounding. Always.

~ Artistry.

Along with drama, scenes need causality, propulsion, originality, and grace.

~ Credibility.

Only plausible characters and events evoke reader emotion. 

~ Focus.

Regardless of style or voice, tension is the crux of every scene.

Yet novelists conceptualize scenes differently. Drawn to setting or symbolism? You might disregard tension. Maybe you’re an action sort of gal. Will your characters be disembodied? Will you emphasize what they do and ignore why they do it?

Scenes work when novelists disregard personal predilection to provide the whole picture. Who wants a lopsided bouquet? 

Tip: Readers enjoy scenes that balance their elements—that complete the picture.

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