Tag Archives: action

Write Hot Scenes For Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips

Hot Scenes Deliver Bestselling Fiction: 5 Magical Tips

New authors struggle with their scenes. They know that when you write powerful scenes, readers respond, and the result is bestselling fiction.

Bestselling authors are masters of their scenes. Their prose may be less than elegant, but it delivers an emotional punch. It’s always amusing when unsuccessful writers sneer at bestselling authors, whining that a certain bestselling author “can’t write” and doesn’t “deserve” success. This is nonsense.

As I’ve said many times: let go of the words in your fiction. Focus on FEELING.

If you focus on emotions, literary snobs may sneer, but you can laugh all the way to the proverbial bank. Emotion is delivered in scenes: the action’s happening now, and readers are engaged.

One of the biggest challenges for new authors is getting a handle on scenes. So, let’s do that today.

Scenes are the building blocks of your fiction

In the 21st century, every reader understands drama.

TV and movie stories are delivered in scenes. If you want lots of readers, you need to learn to deliver your stories in scenes too.

Readers are impatient. They just want the story. Deliver. Show, rather than tell. “Showing” means writing in scenes.

Here’s a graphic to help you to write hot scenes.

How to Write Scenes in Novels and Short Stories

Now let’s look at the elements which make up a scene.

Scene elements: how to set a scene

Here are the five elements of a hot scene.

1. Where and when, time and place: a scene plays out, NOW

Scenes are set somewhere. On a beach. In a warehouse. In a penthouse apartment. On a train… a plane… in a car.

Think of each of your scenes as a scene in a movie. Your point of view (POV) character in your scene is your camera. Orient your readers, so that they know where they are, and with whom they’re there.

Please don’t stop the action to do this. Use sensory elements (see below) to establish your scenes.

2. Characters have goals

Every character in your scene has a goal. And a secret. We all want things, all the time. Your fictional characters ACT on their goals. Their actions lead to conflict with other characters.

3. Character goals lead to: action, conflict, suspense… DRAMA

It’s often easier to study scenes while watching a movie. There’s less chance you’ll get lost in the words. So watch a movie, with a pen and paper. Pause the action when a scene ends, and replay the scene. Analyze it.

Work out what the characters’ goals are in the scene.

4. Sensory elements: sight, sound, hearing, touch: your readers LIVE your scenes

Ground your scenes in reality. What does your POV character hear? What’s he touching? Provide sensory details, so that readers can live the scenes with your characters.

5. Emotion, via characters’ thoughts, to help readers to FEEL

Consider this sentence.

He told her: “You deserve to die.”

Dramatic? Not unless your POV character thinks, and reacts. Reveal your POV character’s thoughts when he hears the statement. If you can do that, your readers will live the scene with the character. They’ll  be there with him.

Fence in your scenes…

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to dilute the effect of a scene, and wander off the point. Write down one, and at the most three, things you want a reader to experience in a scene.

This means:

  • NO flashbacks during a scene;
  • No extraneous characters (limit the characters in most scenes. Battle and crowd scenes are the exception. Maintain the POV’s character’s focus. What’s he seeing and doing? Feeling? Thinking?)
  • NO tangents. Maintain your POV character’s focus. Let’s say that your POV character has been kidnapped. He’s unlikely to think about a dinner party that’s coming up in three days. New authors go off on strange tangents in scenes all the time. DON’T. Be there with your character, thinking what he’s thinking, and feeling it.
  • NO head-hopping: one POV per scene. Many bestselling authors head-hop. (That is, they change their POV character in the course of a scene.) You can do it too, once you’re a bestseller. It’s all too easy to confuse readers, so don’t do it until you’re selling thousands of copies of your fiction every day.

Writing hot scenes will become second nature to you

Initially, you’ll feel as if there’s a lot to remember in scenes. Over time, you won’t need to think about the elements. Adding them becomes natural, and automatic.

Enjoy writing scenes. Hot scenes are the building blocks of bestselling fiction — they’re entertaining to write, as well as to read. Have fun. 🙂

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

Blurbs Sell Your Books: Craft Irresistible Blurbs, And Sell More Fiction And Nonfiction Today

eBook: $5.99

You can, when you discover the secrets of writing blurbs (book descriptions) which sell.

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Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

Step By Step To Fiction Which Sells: Plotting And Scene Magic

eBook: $5.99

Your readers want to enter your novel's world. They want to experience your book -- they want to live your book with your main characters.

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Writing a Novel? Make Something Happen NOW (and on every page)

Action Margine of Terror

You’re writing a novel. Is something happening on every page? Action on every page is vital.

I’m a huge fan of Victorian novelists. I love Anthony Trollope. I reread his Palliser novels every few years. If Trollope were writing today however, I’m sure he’d use a different style. He would show, more than tell. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression: “show, don’t tell” before when it comes to writing fiction.

“Showing” is writing in scenes: writing action, exactly as it happens, from the point of view of one character, your viewpoint character, in a scene.

“Telling” is narrative summary: you’re relating events to your readers. Think of it as if you’re telling someone what happened in a movie.

Everything important which happens in your novel should be shown as a scene, and every scene should have ACTION to carry the story forward.

Cut the Talk, Cue the Action

Sadly in many unpublished, or self-published, novels by beginning writers, nothing much happens. Or something happens, and it’s weird.

If you want to see common errors writers make in their novels — even very good writers — read the First Page entries on the Dear Author blog. Brave authors summit the first page of their novels; I think the feature runs every Saturday and Sunday.

Authors’ biggest mistake is that nothing much happens on the first page. People talk. There’s some info dumping, but nothing HAPPENS. When something does happen, it’s weird. For example, one First Page entry had a woman on her own in a snowbound cabin. A stranger comes to her door. She welcomes him, and gets fussy about some potato crisps which were past their use-by date. You might well think HUH?! Undeniably, this novel’s heroine was TSTL (Too Stupid to Live)… she’s alone, miles from anywhere, in a snowbound cabin and she drags a strange man into the cabin… This could have been set up well, if she’d been nervous.. But she was worried about potato crisps.

The author’s novel has potential, and something happened on the first page, which is good. Sadly, what happened was silly.

You can’t go far wrong with your novel if you have action, and that action is presented logically.

Here’s an Exercise: Get Familiar With Action in Scenes

Pick a novel from the genre in which you’re writing. Read the first chapter. How many scenes are there in the chapter? How does the author transition out of a scene into the scene’s sequel? The “scene sequel” is the page after the scene, in which the viewpoint character thinks about what happened, and what he/ she will do next.

Next, make a list of actions in each scene. What happens? Even talk can be action (two characters plotting the murder of a third character, for example), so you don’t need to have your characters driving racing cars, or climbing a mountain. However, something must happen, in each and every scene of your novel. Indeed, on every page.


Story Power: discover how stories can kickstart your fiction sales

Story Power

Why should YOU write short stories? Three reasons. They’re fast to write, they can teach you a lot, and they pay.

* New to fiction? Short fiction’s useful for new fiction writers. They can learn how fiction works, and make money, without investing months and years.

* Established in fiction? Short fiction is also useful for novelists: build your name, and increase overall sales, with frequent releases.

* Stories are POWERFUL. Everyone loves a story. In the marketing world, stories have always been powerful, and companies are becoming more aware of the fact.

Learn more.

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photo credit: Rakka via photopin cc