Creative and Memoir Writing

Presented by Carol Brennan King

We have been talking about editing on and off lately, and I wanted to combine editing and scenes today.

In other words, you can save time editing when you write with several things in mind related to the necessary components of a good scene.

So here we go! Think through your scenes to see how they do against these standards.

  1. You must carefully describe, or you might say build, the world in which your story takes place using the following elements to help show mood, tone, and meaning.
    a. Locations—did you show them well enough that the reader can see what you see in your mind?
    b. Characters—do you readers have a sense of what these primary people look like, sound like, and act like?
    c. Objects—are there objects in the scene that help you see the setting and the people who wanted those objects in that place?
    d. Weather—what hints do you have for the weather? Weather can even be an important character in a scene.
    Now, read through the following paragraph and note how the author has succeeded at helping you see the scene.
    Simon scuffed his wellies off on the stones leading up to the old cottage and ducked his head before stepping through the open door into thick darkness. Ready to pull his ID card from his pocket, he called out, “Inspector Hay here, looking for Mrs. Featherbody. Anybody home?” Once inside, he saw what was left of the pull chain to a ceiling lamp, and he pulled the short chain carefully, glancing around the room full of what could have been his grandmother’s furniture, at least what he could see of it. The air, now filled with dust motes, felt warm so he set off on a search of the room with the flashlight pulled from his jacket pocket. That was when he noticed papers still smoldering in the ancient fireplace, papers that looked old, not papers yellowed by fire.
  2. Are you, as the writer, sprinkling in sensory information, so your readers can feel as though they are up close to the scene? Think about the previous scene as you consider the following:
    a. Sight
    b. Sound
    c. Smell
    d. Taste
    e. Touch
  3. Are you using dialogue naturally and layering in subtext to generate suspense and tension?
  4. What did you see in the text above that did this? And think about how you might do it in your current project.
  5. Are you using body language to show the subtext? What could the writer have done with body language in the earlier text?
    What did he do in this text?
    Simon called again, and pulling his handkerchief out of his pocket, he wiped his sweaty forehead, then shook the damp kerchief and laid it over the seat of an antique chair facing the door. He pulled his gun out, checked the chambers, then tucked it loosely into his side pocket.
  6. Does the protagonist have a unique, idiosyncratic perspective that shines through on every page. Look up Inspector Lynley or Lt. Columbo or Father Brown for examples.
  7. Does your protagonist think about the backstory of his own life or various characters to help the reader understand what is happening in this scene and to show how or why he takes the actions he does?
  8. Do you make it clear to your reader, without being ‘telly’ what the protagonist thinks or feels about what is happening in each scene? How might you or he/she go about doing this? Remember, you want your reader to see action that reveals emotion.
    What did the damp handkerchief say in the above scene?
  9. Does it show what the protagonist is afraid of – what he/she fears is coming? How is it shown?
  10. Are your characters behaving, acting, and reacting, in ways that seem reasonable to the events of the plot, in the character arc?
  11. Finally, have you been asking yourself, or checking your work, to be certain that you have written the characters and the events in such a way that is appropriate to the story’s unfolding? Or to rouse curiosity in the readers, so they ask why something happened, or happened in a particular way?

We have been talking about writing scenes, remembering that each scene has its own story, and those stories pulled together tell the greater story. So use this information to look closely at the scenes in the work you are bringing to class Wednesday.

Some other interesting related sites you might find interesting inc lude the following:

The Kreative Authorpreneur

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