Lucid Writing Advice III by Antavius S. Flagg

The five things that creates a good scene

Narrative
Making sure it’s necessary
Description of events and surroundings
Believable dialogue
An outcome that empowers and moves the story
The scene is the most vital part of a story. It is the vein in which the life of the story flows. If one scene is cut, or disrupted in a way that dulls the reader, then all life is drained away. There is no imagination. This article of Lucid Writing Advice should at least give you a hint to creating a good scene.

NARRATIVE

If the scene is the vein, then the narrative is the blood of the manuscript. The creation of good narrative will make any story a good read. Fantasy writers fall into a common trap by given pages upon pages of inactive narrative as the opener of their manuscript, especially in novels. To the writer, this may seem a show of artistic ability, to the reader it loses his or her interest, and more than likely they will search desperately for another book.

There’s only one sure way to avoid this: don’t do it! And there are red flags that should alert you that your creating slow paced narrative. Here are the most prominent of those red flags below:

When you read inactive narrative, and finally get back to active narrative, you have the sense that all those words really did nothing.
Your talking about a character, then suddenly diverge to talk about a war that made him who he was today, and then diverge again to name the start of that war, and yet again to talk about the people who fought in that war.
You describe everything at once, then the narrative becomes confusing as you describe them again as you enter a scene of dialogue.
The above are just examples, there are countless more. Examine the opening of your manuscript. If you see that you have placed hundreds of words of description in the readers lap-delete it- and start where the action is. There a common maxim in writing of any sort: Show don’t tell.

But this doesn’t mean that you have to destroy every piece of inactive narrative in our manuscript. If you find that such narrative is vital and essential then you should keep it. But otherwise, it’s a red flag to be burned.

MAKING SURE IT’S NECESSARY

I once wrote a story with an cast of characters that was fit for Hollywood, and more than six of them were important. With more than one main character you have an abundance of scenes of each character to balance. To many scenes, which diverges attention away from your main character too long will turn the story into a biography of whoever is in the story. To remedy this problem, you’ll have to become a friend of the delete key. Don’t be afraid to use it, and delete all those unnecessary scenes, and if you have to, delete some of those characters. Sliming your cast down will prevent you from having to remember what happened in the previous scene at one character. The worse thing you could do is forget a scene. The reader could read it, like it, and find to their disappointment that the character was locked in jail, but nothing described that he go out. The sorceress and the mage reached the castle, but we are ignorant if they even made it inside.

You don’t want to forget anything. If you find yourself saying ” Oh no, I forgot about that,” and brainstorming a way to write the scene and make it relevant to future scenes-you have too large a cast.

DESCRIPTION OF EVENTS AND SURROUNDINGS

When we read, we want to see what we read. When we read we want to hear what we read. When we read we want to feel what we read. When we…I guess you get the idea of what the reader wants. And as you can tell, it’s demanding.

A writer tries to imitate life as best he can. This is a must. To do so you must come to understand a few pointers. Observe the following passage:

Samantha glided down the hallway, and around the corner. With a scream, she fell into the hole.

Not much description, with the exception of the word ‘glided’ to show that Samantha was walking quickly, but quietly. Let’s take this passage to surgery:

Let’s inject ‘dark’between ‘the hallway’. ‘With a scream’shows little of what has happened when Samantha has fallen, and I’m sure that the writer will like us to know that she fell quite a distance. Let us say ‘with an echoing scream’.

‘She fell into the hole’ seems quite clumsy, lets cut ‘hole’and reconstruct it into ‘abyss’. Now we receive this:

Samantha glided down the dark hallway, and around the corner. With an echoing scream, she fell into the abyss.

Now the reader can clearly see exactly what the writer has wanted them to see. The hallway is dark, Samantha is in a rush, her screams echo as she falls.

Here’s another passage:

Wilhem brought his sword before him. On the surface of the blade he saw the anger on his face.

This writer could have been better off if he left the paper to itself: blank.

‘Wilhem brought his sword before him’ may seem to do justice to this passage, but it lacks description. Let’s change it to ‘With a crisp ring, and a flash of reflecting sunlight, Wilhem brought his sword before him.’

‘On the surface of the blade, he saw the anger on his face.’ is like looking into the hollow of a dead tree trunk. Its filled with nothing but dead air. Here it is rewritten with description in mind: ‘On the polished surface of the steel blade, he saw the glare of anger shadowing his face.’

Here’s that passage rewritten:

With a crisp ring, and a flash of reflecting sunlight, Wilhem brought his sword before him. On the polished surface of the steel blade, he saw the glare of anger shadowing his face.

Although he we have increased the word count, the passage seems to flow faster and smoother because we have injected description. The reader can hear the sound as the weapon is pulled from the scabbard, the flash of light as the rays of the sun strike the blade, and the anger on Wilhem’s face.

What you don’t want to do is pile everything on at once. If this writer had written that Wilhem saw his brown eyes, the scar around his left eye, and the bruise around his mouth all in the reflection of the sword, we will be bogging the scene down. And as you can probably tell, Wilhem was probably ready to use that sword to his defense if he was angry.

Keep this in mind: Keep it simple, yet make it worthwhile.

BELIEVABLE DIALOGUE

Good dialogue is good, believable dialogue is better. People rarely speak for minutes on end. Keeping dialogue simple, and yet essential to the story, will empower the scene. Here is a scene written will awkward dialogue:

Marie and Jean walked into the crew quarters of the space ship. In the glow of switches and levers, Jean turned to Marie.

” You must hate being on this ship for all these years?” Jean said.

” No.” Marie said.

” Why not?” Jean said.

” Because or this.” Marie said. She then pulled the lever that brought up the map of the stars.

This scene is tied in knots with she said she said. Since we know that Marie and Jean are the only people talking, and that Jean turned to Marie, its pretty obvious it was Jean who started the conversation. Delete all the she said, and replace it with description of the characters. Here is that passage rewritten:

Marie and Jean walked into the crew quarters of the space ship. In the glow of switches and levers, Jean turned to Marie.

” You must hate being on this ship for all these years?” They stopped before the ship’s control board.

Marie’s eyes flashed in the fire of the switches. ” No.”

” Why not?”

Marie pulled a lever. ” Because or this.” With a swoosh, a map of the stars came before them.

Dialogue serves a purpose: like the piers of a bridge, or the water in a swimming pool. That purpose must will the story forward. Below is an example of dialogue that moves the scene forward.

Aldora, with Thomas close behind her, opened the door to the vault. Darkness greeted them like hounds waiting to be fed. In silence, they descended. They had come for one purpose. The sword.

Thomas’s voice was a shrill in the stillness around them.

” What about the feast, Aldora, what are we going to do about the feast?”

Aldora’s eyes adjusted to the darkness. ” I ordered the maids to bring in more wine, that should keep the guest singing well after we have the sword. .”

A mouse shrieked somewhere on the dark stone steps. A whimper escaped Thomas’s throat.

” Aldora, I don’t like it down here. Let’s go back?”

” You have come this far, there will be no turning back.” Aldora chimed. They reached the landing. With a stream of her power, candles lit everywhere in the vault as Aldora scanned the room. A smile graced her lips. On the marble dais lay what she’d come for.

The dialogue in this scene should tell you, without even stating it directly, that Aldora and Thomas have left the feast to go search for the sword. To diverge the guest in noticing their absence, Aldora has ordered the maids to bring in more wine. From the dialogue we know that Thomas hates the vault.

And like Aldora, your dialogue must be determined

AN OUTCOME THAT EMPOWERS AND MOVES THE STORY

Each scene should act as an individual word, when connected together, should form a complete story. You must strive to create a scene that moves the story forward and keeps to the base of the story. As aforementioned, a forgotten scene is worse that a bad scene.

Write from the heart and soul. You can always edit later. Don’t worry about something that you have written that has nothing to do with your manuscript. And also like I said somewhere above, you and the delete key can always become good friends.

You can email the author of this article at america1376@yahoo.com

Copyright© 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 Antavius S. Flagg, sffworld.com. All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author.

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