My goal for the next week or so is to get several powerful scenes written. By powerful, I mean scenes with multiple purposes in the story. As we have discussed here many times, every scene is a unit of conflict. I want to write scenes that go beyond a unit of conflict.
Debra Dixon, in Goal, Motivation & Conflict, suggests that there should be at least three reasons for every scene and at least one of those must address a characters goal, motivation or conflict. Dwight Swain talks about scenes and sequels with the sequel consisting of reaction, dilemma, and decision. Other purposes I’ve come across are to establish atmosphere, develop pathos, or create suspense. I’m hoping that by combining reasons for a scene, I can eliminate backstory, narrative summary and other ‘reasons’ that drag a story down.
But maybe I should say, restrict backstory, narrative summary, etc. Because stories need backstory. They don’t need big narrative passages that dump it all on the reader (especially in a series when the author does a soap opera style “as you know” rehash). I am re-reading the Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series (because she is doing a promotion so they are being released at $1.99 a week until her new one is out). There is a scene in An Offer From a Gentleman that is repeated in Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. In the first story, it is in Benedict’s head (as I recall). In the second, it’s in Penelope’s. I suppose it’s more of a prologue scene in the second book, but it happens before the real story starts – therefore backstory. It’s a good scene, but since I read the preceding story, I didn’t need a rehash – just a few lines would have done it woven into another scene. Of course, since Julia Quinn makes a lot more money writing romance than I do, she can’t be doing too many things wrong.
Conflict is a given. In trying to apply the three reasons to my scenes, I have identified some of the reasons for my scenes that are in addition to the main conflict. Some introduce new characters, increase sexual tension, build or break down trust, expose backstory, or foreshadow a future event.
What reasons do you have for your scenes? How many have you been able to include in a single scene?