Saturday, January 28, 2012

On the Scene

Happy weekend! Hope you've had a great week. It's been a busy month, hasn't it? Seems like so much is going on.

I just finished my second round of revisions ... or should I say re-visions on my YA, and entered it in ABNA, not that I expect to win, but because they give awesome detailed feedback on your first chapter, even if you don't get past the second round. Still time if you want to enter, but you better hurry!

As promised, today I have more from kid lit powerhouse, Mary Kole's, webinar on writing YA/MG. I have a series of posts from the course going, so if you missed any, I'll have links below.

Today I'm talking about scenes, and how to make sure they have what they should to compel our readers to, you know, keep reading!

Here's a checklist for you:

** Your MC (main character) must want something. In every scene.
** Don't mistake bickering for the conflict in your scene. What's the big picture?
** Subtext. What are the underlying objectives? What actions do your characters take to reach their goals?
** Are there enough shifts in action? Changing beats? Remember, in real life people never come out and ask for what they want. Don't rely on stilted dialog.
** Always end the scene/chapter on a turning point. There should be a new obstacle, frustration, or realization revealed or the scene isn't important to the story.
** Give each scene you can irreversible impact. Make it so there is no going back.
** Are there enough story values? Using both positive and negative emotions and switching back and forth throughout each scene and entire story?
** Has the antagonist had a brief relating moment to the protagonist in at least one scene?
** Some writers make emotional maps of each scene, highligting each emotion to ensure all are present
** Subplots present? Remember conflict isn't linear. Let subplots add complication to the main story problem
** Use subplots to showcase contrary sides
** Use surprises and reversals to bring out turning points in the story
** There should be a disconnect between reality (of story) and character's expectations.

Hope those are helpful. James Scott Bell's book Plot & Structure is also very helpful for tweaking scenes. If you missed the last two posts from Mary's class on writing, click here for First Chapter Objectives and here for Big Idea.

Also, Georgia McBride, freelance editor and founder of is teaching a self-editing and revisions course, which you can find here.

How about you? Anything to add for crafting compelling scenes? I love to hear your tips and comments! 


T. Drecker said...

Thanks for the tips. I read a tip yesterday about making actions in scenes easier to follow: 1st cause, then reaction. For example (a really simple one):
He ordered her a drink because he saw her enter the bar. (This is incorrect.)
He saw her enter the bar, so he ordered her a drink. (correct)
This correct cause and effect structure keeps the reader from guessing, and draws them more into the story.
Good luck for the contest!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Again thanks for the tips,


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Glad you got your piece ready and submitted - good luck!

DL Hammons said...

Good luck with ABNA!!!

Jess said...

I know I probably wasn't ready, but I entered ABNA too. I mean, come on. It can't hurt to TRY. Good luck!

And thanks for all the advice!

Miranda Hardy said...

Good luck on your submission. I'm still working on revisions, too. lol

Great tips.

Old Kitty said...

GOOD LUCK and all the best with your ABNA entry!!! Yay for you!!!

Endless revisions from me too!!

Have a great weekend!! Take care

KarenG said...

These are great tips! The kinds of things we all know but need to see written down (preferably while revising) to remember to apply them to our own work.

Roger Lawrence said...

Great tips. I'm going to print them off.

Kittie Howard said...

Great tips, PK. I bookmarked the page. And good luck with ABNA.

McKenzie McCann said...

Quite a while ago, I remember Mooderino blogging about how every scene should be like its own story, with a beginning, middle, end, rising action, climax, and resolution.

Revisions are a crazy business indeed.

The Happy Whisk said...

Congrats on working
hard and submitting
your entry.

Go you. Rah.

Rachel Pudelek said...

Thanks for the tips. :) I'm gonna go check out that contest too!

alexia said...

Good luck with ABNA! And thanks for these great tips!

erica and christy said...

You take great notes, PK, thanks for sharing. Good luck with ABNA! I'm in, too - 3rd times the charm?? :)

fOIS In The City said...

PK, as someone who does not write MG/YA I always find your posts, especially like today's, most helpful. They speak more to the process and function of writing, regardless of genre. Thanks so much for the links :)

James Garcia Jr. said...

Hi, P.K. It's been too long! I was just passing through and felt that no matter what you had on your post today I was going to stop and greet you. *waves* You do sound busy! Take care of yourself and have a great week... Of course, it goes without saying that you should enjoy your Sunday first. :)


Donna Yates said...

oh, PK, this is great stuff! Thanks for putting these out there. When I'm deep in writing, I often forget things like this. Thanks for this post.

Michelle Dennis Evans said...

Some great points. Thank you.
I've entered the abna too... Same category .. After my millionth revision LOL Hope you do well, and get some great feed back

Trisha said...

This kind of detailed analysis of my chapters is something I've never done. And I need to start!

Thanks for a great list!

Leslie Rose said...

Sending you good vibes for ABNA. Way to go. Terrif tips. Definitely bookmarkin' time.

Anonymous said...

Very helpful tips.... thanks for sharing

LTM said...

oh, these are awesome tips! Mary's such a great resource and so open to writers. Love her.

And GOOD LUCK!!! with ABNA! Keep us posted when we can help~ ((hugs)) <3

Jay Noel said...

Great stuff.

I was always drawn to YA stories where an everyday, ordinary character finds him/herself in extraordinary circumstances.

Here's an example: a teenage girl is a substitute bus driver for a grade school when their bus is overtaken by terrorists.

(After the First Death, by Robert Cormier)

Jade Hart said...

I love those tips on chapter writing. I've noticed I do some, but not all... time to go back and revise! :)

I've left an award for you on my blog by the way, just to say thanks for your informative posts and to say hi! :)

Happy writing

William Kendall said...

I'm currently doing an edit for a couple of writers, and they know exactly where to end a chapter.

Kathryn Purdie said...

Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. I'm getting to do a big revision, so this comes at perfect timing!

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