Tuesday, April 1, 2014

RMIT Writing Week7: SCENES

What is a Scene?
A scene is a unit of action and a novel is made up of units of action. A scene can include memory, reflection, impressions, but it should occur in a specific time and place. SOMETHING HAPPENS in a scene. The status will change. Scenes move your characters around the story... This week I brought in a scene of my own from Girl Defective - the chapter called Catnip and pitched it against the Good Scene Worksheet. In the scene Sky and Nancy are in her bedroom preparing to go on a clandestine night out. Sky has lied to her father and the girls have tickets to go to a gig that Sky would never be allowed to go to. The scene starts with Sky feeling guilty, and ends with her feeling vengeful. The scene is important in Sky's character development because it's the first instance of her being wilfully dishonest (and she is, for the most part an 'honest' and reliable character). It is also the scene where Sky's relationship with Nancy and the power play between the two is clearly in focus. There is some dialogue that sets up future stuff with Sky's love interest, and there are specific signifiers (Bobbie Gentry, Joan Crawford, spandex, Japanese cursing festivals, make-up) to enhance the mood. All of this happens in three pages and the shorthand synopsis of this scene in all my early breakdowns is: Sky and Nancy kiss.

Here's the Good Scene Worksheet (just a few questions ... it can be handy for pointing out what's missing or not working. You may not need EVERYTHING on it, but the more you know, the more you know.)

  1. Where does this scene take place?
  2. Who is in it?
  3. Can you read the relationships between characters?
  4. What is the emotional tone of the character driving the narrative at the beginning of the scene?
  5. What actually happens in the scene - can you write it in a sentence? I.E This is the scene where ....
  6. Can you pinpoint beginning, middle end (remember our eight point plot - can you map the scene to these points? (see http://www.dailywritingtips.com/how-to-structure-a-story-the-eight-point-arc/)
  7. What is the moment of change, the agent of change, the turning?
  8. Can she go back? What is the thing that means she cannot go back to how she was?
  9. What can you tell about the driving character because of this scene?
  10. What is the driving character’s emotional tone at the end of the scene?
  11. Can you make some notes about setting, subplots?
  12. What’s working for you in this scene?
  13. What questions are you asking now after reading this scene?
  14. What is the conflict and who is the ‘winner?’
NB: This week I'll be giving out an extract from Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's - two pages where he compresses several scenes while still adhering to a super-structure! 

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