Michille: Reasons for a Scene

After reading Elizabeth’s post from yesterday, I decided to set a goal for the next week to get a couple scenes written. Any scene. I’ve been watching Virgin River on Netflix. Maybe I’ll try to come up with a powerful scene that could happen between some of those characters. A bit of fan fiction, if you will. By powerful, I mean scenes with multiple purposes in the story (which Virgin River has). 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 recently re-read Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series. I shouldn’t because I want to watch the series and I know it will be so different from the books that I’ll be yelling at the TV the whole time – prime example: they changed a twenty-ish gossip rag writer to an octagenarian. Sheesh. But I digress. 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 will need to identify some of the reasons for the scenes that are in addition to the main conflict. Some could 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?

4 thoughts on “Michille: Reasons for a Scene

  1. That’s an interesting question, and one I haven’t thought about in a while. Lately, I’ve been focused on just getting the story down on (metaphorical, digital) paper and not so much on craft. I think I’m hoping some of the craft is instinctive by now. If not, that’s what second drafts are for.

    I just added a scene where Samael is preparing to meet with Lilith to plan a trade summit between Hell and Heaven. He is always and eternally in love with Lilith but Satan has decreed they can’t be together. Working this assignment with Lilith could be Heaven but he knows she’ll make it Hell. And then his current girlfriend insists on going to lunch so she can bitch about his new assignment. She insists he should get Satan to assign her to that planning role so they can turn the assignment into an Aboveworld vacation/second honeymoon. (While he’s trying to lead trade talks with Hell’s archenemies.)

    So what is/are the functions of that scene?
    1) It lets us get inside of Sam’s head and see how how much he loves and admires Lilith.
    2) Sets up another obstacle to Sam and Lil getting together.
    3) Gives me a chance to show more about life in Hell.

    Yeah, that’s all I can think of right now. I didn’t plan this scene. I was writing the transition into the planning meeting and my muse announced that Sam needed to go to lunch with Gomory. It feels like it’s supposed to be there, though.

    Sorry to be so wordy but it’s your fault for making me stop and think about this scene.

    Glad your putting digital pen to paper to create fiction again! Don’t let yourself get too hung up on craft in the first draft–that is a creativity killer.

    • God knows I don’t need anything else to kill my creativity. I’m usually a pantser, too. I’m going to see how it works to get the idea for a scene in my head and then see if I can figure out what the three things could be. We’ll see how that works.

      Your scene sounds great, BTW.

  2. i think my main goal for a scene is that something has to change for the better or worse—character’s mood, goal, arc, plan, hopes, dreams, accomplishments. Whatever. And then if I can make the scene do something else, too, great. If not, I can always improve or delete it later.

    But speaking of the Bridgerton series, the Netflix production doesn’t air until November, right? I subscribed just to get that. But it sounds like you know that they changed one of the characters. I’m not expecting the Nexflix series to be like the books, but I’m expecting it to be good in its own way. I’m hoping, anyway!

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