The most important scenes in fiction are your “big” scenes. In a romance, they’re the scenes in which the main characters become romantically involved. In a mystery, they’re the scenes in which you artfully drop clues to either guide, or mislead, your readers.
The BIG secret: work out your big scenes, and write towards them
Even if you love outlining, it’s all too easy to lose track in your fiction. If you’ve written a novel or two, it’s happened to you. You’re meant to be writing a romance, yet here you are, a quarter of the way through your novel, and the hero’s nowhere in sight.
You can avoid those disasters by deciding what your readers expect from your genre. In a romance, it’s … the romance. In a mystery… the mystery. In a horror novel, readers want to be scared out of their wits. Genres are labels, and readers expect to consume what it says on the tin.
What do readers expect? That’s your clue to your big scenes
Please write down what readers expect. Don’t imagine that because you’ve read science fiction since you were in high school, you know, and can meet readers’ expectations. Yes, you know. And you’ll forget.
So make a list.
Then, make a list of the big scenes.
If you’re writing a romance:
- The hero and heroine meet;
- First stumbling block to their relationship;
- Another stumbling block;
- They like each other, and eliminate one block;
- They do/ don’t consummate their relationship. If they do, then you’re writing a steamier kind of romance, and the consummation happens at the midpoint of your novel;
Discovering your big scenes helps if you dislike plotting
There are ways to make plotting simple and fun. You can let your plot grow organically, if you list your big scenes before you start writing. Then work out the stepping-stone scenes you need to move from one big scene to another.
We talked about Scenes, Narrative and Chapters, and said:
A scene can be 40 pages, or two paragraphs in length. I know “pages” have zero meaning in ebooks, so let’s assume that a page is 250 words, and 40 pages are 10,000 words.
Most of my scenes in short stories and novels are around 1,500 words. Some may be just 400 words. Others — the “big” scenes — will be longer.
Let’s say that you have six big scenes in your novel. (You can use the “big scene” method in short stories and serials too; you’ll have fewer scenes, and more scenes respectively.)
You estimate that your big scenes will be 2,500 words. That’s 15,000 words out of your novel — say 20,000 words, because chances are your big scenes will run longer.
If you list those scenes as A, B, C, etc across a large sheet of paper or a whiteboard, it’s easy enough to decide what you need in the scenes which lead up to a big scene.
Try it yourself on your current novel. Decide on your big scenes, then decide what needs to happen to get to those points.
There are any number of plotting methods. You’ll vary your method with each piece of fiction you write. However, you’ll always need a way of identifying and making the most of your fiction’s high points — your big scenes.
Have fun. 🙂
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