Tag Archives: organizing ideas

Organizing your ideas – Scenes

Random ideas are a fantastic way of training your creative ability, but they are not a story. You must organize them. How? Into scenes.

It’s a prevalent problem for beginners to organize their ideas into scenes. What is, indeed, a scene? Where does it end? How can I make it enjoyable?

I had been there myself, and after a lot of research, I found the better answers in Randy Ingermanson’s blog (I’ll give you some links at the end of the post). He taught me something that I already was able to prove to myself: even a weak plot can be an interesting book if you have good scenes.

Scene’s characteristics

The scene is the tiniest piece of your novel – such as a musical note within a song. It occurs in a delimited space of time in the story (minutes or hours usually).

One of the major problems for young writers is the length of it. Well, some writers put an average word limit, such as Randy himself. I don’t, but if the scene is getting too big, then something is definitely off.

A scene focuses on one character of your book, but not necessarily the main one. It has to have a clear beginning and end.

Types of Scenes

Something surprised me about Randy’s posts, and it can be quite frustrating, I must admit. It is the fact that after you read this, you’ll notice that many of your scenes weren’t scenes at all. Confusing?

Randy divides the scenes into two types: proactive and reactive. A proactive scene has the sequence: goal, conflict, setback. The reactive scene is about reaction, dilemma, and decision. And that’s it.

I could try to explain each one of them, but I believe that nothing better than his own words to explain this.

Proactive Scene

“When you start writing a proactive scene, do it at the point in your story when it’s natural to establish the focal character’s goal for that scene. Quickly establish that goal, and then spend most of the scene working through the conflict of the scene. Eventually, you’ll hit a critical point. This is usually a setback (in which the focal character fails to achieve her goal and is now worse off than before.) Occasionally, it will be a victory (in which the focal character achieves her goal and is now better off than before). Once you’ve hit that critical point, the scene is over. Start a new scene.”

Reactive Scene

“When you start writing a reactive scene, it should normally follow closely on the heels of a setback in a proactive scene. The point of a reactive scene is to give the focal character a chance to react emotively to the hit she’s just taken and to switch directions. Start out with that emotive reaction and let it run its course (usually a few paragraphs or a page at most). Then take your character into a dilemma—what to do next. There should be no good options. If there is a good option, it’s not a dilemma. The dilemma may take quite a while to work through. The focal character has only bad options. Explore these and reject them, one by one, until there is only one acceptable course of action. That’s your focal character’s decision and the reactive scene is now over. Start a new scene.”

Towards Perfection

Scenes are probably the most critical part of your book. They are responsible for your readers to keep reading. They need to catch attention and keep the interest in your story and your characters.

Good scenes make a mediocre plot shine. Bad scenes ruin the most perfect novel.

To read more about the topic, visit Randy Ingermanson’s blog on the links below.

Writing the perfect scene

How do you know when to start and end a scene?

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Planning: a story is more than an idea

When you start to think about a story, what you usually have are some episodic ideas. Despite their quality, those ideas are not a story, even less a novel. Those need a plot and a structure.

I’m not saying that your ideas are not necessary. Every time you have an idea, you should take note of it with all the details, situations, and pieces of dialogue. It might be useful when you have the actual story. Some of those ideas you’ll use, some you will not. You’ll never know which ones are good enough at the moment they occur to you, so write them all down.

Major steps of planning

Writing a good story or novel takes some planning. Planning a good story takes some hard work.

When preparing your story, make sure you have all the main points worked out before you start writing the first draft. For that, you can’t neglect four important steps.

1. Know the genre

First of all, you must know the genre you’re trying to write in. There is no other way of doing this than read a lot of books in that genre. Study them.

Observe their structure, realize what they have in common, the distribution of the scenes, the rhythm. Try to find out why is the book interesting (or not). The most you know about it, the better.

2. The conflict

No conflict, no story. The most critical part of your story is the conflict. It is what makes your audience interested and catch your readers.

There is no story without a conflict, which makes it a massive step towards your goal. Take all the time you need in it. Do some research on tips and good practices. The conflict is the center of everything, and you need to think carefully about it.

3. Organize your ideas

Remember those ideas you wrote before? The ones that came into your mind in the most unexpected places? That’s right. It’s time to get and organize them.

Reread what you wrote, improve the best ones and try to see where (if) they fit in. At this point, you are already working on the actual structure of your story. Start choosing what goes in each chapter.

4. Go deeper into each scene

Before you start writing the first draft, retake a look at your former ideas. At this point, the best ones should already be scenes for your chapters.

Observe what you have now very carefully, and go deeper into each scene. Add descriptions, dialogues, and other essential details. That will make your life easier when it comes to the time to start writing.

Outline

Outlining your story is, without a doubt, a great help. There are, nonetheless, authors that refuse to use an outline. Well, that’s okay, it’s not exactly mandatory, but it will definitely, make your work faster and easier.

With an outline, you can try ideas, explore them without making them permanent. It allows you to explore more without so much commitment.

The outline gives you the possibility of not being stuck at one point. You’ll always know what to write next, and as you’re writing, new ideas will keep coming to your mind. All of them help to turn the original plot even richer.

Inspiration is hard work

Many people think that a great writer has a stroke of inspiration, sits down at his desk and write the next Nobel Prize nominee. That’s far away from the truth!

Inspiration is the fruit of several months (sometimes years) of hard work. The good news is that, in the end, you might have that masterpiece after all.