Tag Archives: emotion

Writing Scenes In Fiction: 3 Powerful Tips

Writing Scenes In Fiction: 3 Powerful Tips

Do you love telling stories? You must do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. If you’re a new author however, chances are that scenes in fiction are a mystery to you. When do you SHOW something in a scene, rather than TELLING, in a narrative? How much dialogue can you use?

The more you write, the more automatic these decisions become. You won’t consciously think about them anymore; you just write. Actually “just write” is good advice for your first draft. When you constrain yourself, you can choke off your creativity, and block.

Scenes are magic. They keep readers reading, because… Scenes are action. Something’s happening. Characters are fighting. (If there’s no conflict, get some… we talked about characters’ thoughts and emotions here.)

Once you become comfortable with scenes, you’ll love them, because they’re easy to write — you just toss your characters together, and they fight. You enjoy it, and your readers do too.

These tips will help you to write powerful scenes.

1. Write your VITAL scenes: never cheat readers

You’re writing a romance novel. Which scenes are vital? The romantic ones, of course. You need to SHOW the romance, so make sure that you write those scenes. Otherwise readers will feel cheated.

Writing a mystery? Similarly, write those scenes which are most important: the discovery of the body, finding clues, interviewing suspects, and so on.

From this, you’ll see that your “vital” scenes are those scenes which the readers of your genre expect.

Plotter? Excellent. You’ll be able to plan your vital scenes before you start writing. Once you’ve plotted your short story or novel, mark your “must-show” scenes — the scenes which are the highlight of your novel. Those scenes will be the turning points of your story.

If you’re a pantser, you won’t know which of your scenes are important until you’ve written your story. Now’s the time to outline your story, and choose your vital scenes. Punch up these scenes.

2. Use senses to convey the point of view (POV) character’s mood

You need to use sensory details throughout your fiction of course. They drop the reader right into your story. Sensory details convey mood. You can convey a lot of emotion depending on what your POV character notices in a scene.

An example:

“I have never felt more alive in my life. It is a bright blue sky day, the birds are lunatic with the warmth, the river outside is gushing past, and I am utterly alive.”

From Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

3. Skip the small-talk: jump into the scene as close to the end as possible

How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories

How to write scenes

It’s vital that something happens in a scene.

At the end of a scene, your characters know more than they did before. Your POV character has either achieved his goal for the scene, or he hasn’t. Either way, he needs to deal with it.

Start your scene in the middle. If you need to convey some information, you can do that with your POV character’s thoughts, after you’ve started the scene. Once you’ve established the conflict in the scene, you can devote a paragraph or two to showing how your character got from Paris to New York, or whatever you need to establish.

Avoid the boring stuff

In a TV show or film, you’ll see the main character driving to a meeting, or walking into a room. Avoid doing that in your fiction. Avoid all slow build-ups to scenes.

While we’re talking about slow build-ups, avoid showing your main character waking up in the morning (unless he wakes up next to a dead body), or experiencing something or other that turns out to be a dream.

Slow build-ups are just authorial throat-clearing. You write it because you’re gearing up to something. Write it by all means in your first draft, then be ruthless and slash it in your second draft. Build-ups are boring.

Only keep the good stuff, where something’s happening. (We’ve talked about backstory, and why you should eliminate it.)

There you go: three tips which will help you to write powerful scenes in your short stories and novels.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Fiction Writing Basics: Character Thoughts And Emotions

Fiction Writing Basics: Character Thoughts And Emotions

We’ve looked at emotion in our Fiction Writing Basics series — check out Fiction Writing Basics: Focus On EMOTION.

Writing about emotions is a challenge for many writers. It’s easy to write melodrama, or conversely, to simply label the emotion: “he was angry.” Neither option does much for your readers.

Relax. Emotions are challenging. They’re challenging in daily life, and in your fiction.

Where do emotions come from?

Emotions arise from our hopes, fears and expectations. They arise from our thinking — from our system of beliefs. Some of our beliefs are conscious. Others are internalized. Internalized beliefs are so much a part of us, that we can’t see them, and therefore we can’t challenge them.

Our unconsciously held beliefs govern our actions. Think about your characters. What unconscious beliefs govern their actions? We’ve talked about character flaws. You can go much deeper into a character when you build his flaw on an unconscious belief. Over the course of your story, that unconscious belief becomes conscious, and your character decides to change.

Tip: emotions arise after sudden events.

Let’s image that you’re going shopping. You’re driving along, thinking. Suddenly, you see a child run out into the road. Your foot slams onto the brake. You don’t need to think about this. When danger threatens, you act. Thought comes later.

You can use this snippet of know-how effectively in your fiction, whenever your character is threatened. He acts without thinking. Does he act badly, or act well?

After he acts, emotions arise. He’s angry, frightened… relieved, happy, while he reflects on what his actions mean. Your readers feel, because your characters feel. You don’t need to describe the emotions your character’s feeling. His emotions are obvious from his thoughts, his actions, and his words.

Forget emotion: reveal your character’s thoughts

In our article, How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories, we offer a simple graphic to help you to outline your scenes.

Here it is again.

How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories

Your fiction is built up of scenes, and their aftermath. They’re the most powerful parts of your fiction. If you’ve got long sections of narrative, without scenes, without something happening NOW, your fiction (probably) has problems.

When you write a scene, your point of view (POV) character has a goal. How does he feel about this goal? Is he excited, confident, and sure he’ll achieve the goal? Or is he anxious? Show your character’s thinking. Readers will feel for him.

You can also describe his sweaty palms, his pounding heart etc. However, a little description of the effects of what he’s feeling goes a long way. I discussed the noddies and wandering eyes here.

In your first draft, accept that you’ll have lots of pounding hearts, wandering eyes and the rest. However, realize too, that these are placeholders. When you rewrite, give us your character’s thoughts. What’s he thinking to cause the physical reactions?

Put yourself in your character’s shoes

Not sure what your characters are thinking?

Imagine. Close your eyes. You’re now you’re character. What are you thinking? I find that when I want to imagine myself as a character, it helps me if I move around. I stroll around my office, or walk out into the garden. Movement helps.

Before you know it, you’ll know. Go back to your desk, and write your character’s thoughts.

Emotional cues to readers: tone

In a scene, you’re writing from the POV of a character. Your writing’s tone is your character’s attitude, which you show via his thoughts. Readers take their emotional clues from your characters.

You can help the tone along. For example, let’s say that your POV character fears losing his job. He’s deeply in debt; the company is downsizing. Your character’s been called into the boss’s office. A thunderstorm rages outside.

You set the stage for the scene with the thunderstorm. It’s a cue to the reader: something BIG is about to happen. As he heads for the boss’s office, there’s a blinding flash, and a moment later, a thunderclap shakes the building. What are your character’s thoughts?

Big scenes: give them your ALL

Every scene in your novel has different weight. A novel might have four or five major scenes. Give those big scenes everything you’ve got. Surprise the reader. Make him laugh, or cry.

In your reading, can you identify a novel’s biggest scenes? In bestselling novels, the big scenes are often the turning points of a novel. They have lots of emotion. Study those scenes in bestselling authors’ work. You’ll learn a lot.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing

How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction

You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels.

More info →

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.

Short Story Shortcuts: Scene Therapy

Short Story Shortcuts: Scene Therapy

Short stories are fun to write, because they’re short. However, they can also be challenging for the same reason. You’re writing to a genre, and your readers have clear expectations for that genre. You can’t shortchange them, you must give them what they want.

This means that you need to be super-clear on a genre’s demands. I love old-style Westerns, so Louis L’Amour is a favorite author of mine. You always know exactly what to expect from him, and he always exceeds your expectations.

It’s been said that L’Amour recycled the same four or five plots, but so what? If you can do what he did – decipher what readers of a genre want, you’ll satisfy your readers.

“How Do You Feel About That?”

Let’s say that you’ve written a short story, and met your genre’s demands. It’s time to revise. I tend to do several revisions, because I write first drafts quickly. For my final revision, I do “scene therapy.” I gauge characters’ ebbs and flows of emotion throughout each scene.

Why focus on emotion? Because your reader lives your story with your characters. Martha Alderson put it well:

A character and her emotional state should be constantly changing. If you write a scene where this is missing, chances are the scene will fall flat and turn your story stagnant.

Start with your first scene. Do you know how the Point of View (POV) character feels immediately? What about the other characters in the scene? In a short story, with just a few scenes, you can’t develop your characters, but you can give them a range of emotions.

As the scene progresses, your character’s emotions will change, according to the action in the scene. (“Action” may simply be dialogue.) Keep asking your character: “how do you feel about that?”

This morning I worked on a scene in which the POV character’s emotions changed from sadness to anger. In earlier drafts, the character was sad, and although the anger was there, it was implied. I made the anger visible, in what the character thought and did, and it immediately lifted the scene.

Try scene therapy for yourself. Don’t try to do it in your first draft; wait until you’re hitting your final revision. Then, dig into your characters’ emotions. It’s huge fun, and it will make your short stories more satisfying for readers.

When You Know You’ll Be Sorting Out Emotions Later, You Can Write Faster

Doing scene therapy with your characters once you’ve got story, setting, characters, and plot all worked out enables you to write faster. You can simply allow your characters to act, and react in early drafts. Later, you’ll reveal their thoughts, and will refine their actions. It saves time, and you’ll write faster. Try it.

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

Map It: For Writing Success — Fiction And Nonfiction Outlines Made Easy

eBook: $5.99

I developed the tactics and strategies in this book to help myself. My students have found them essential to producing both fiction and nonfiction almost effortlessly.

More info →
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Inktera
Buy from Amazon Kindle
Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing

How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily.

More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Resources to build your writing career

Get daily writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check out Angela’s books for writers.