Tag Archives: POV

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.

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Fiction Writing Basics: Point Of View Made Simple

Fiction Writing Basics: Point Of View Made Simple

Let’s look at another basic fiction writing technique: point of view. Whatever you’re writing, whether it’s a short story, or a novel, the question of point of view (POV) needs to be addressed.

When you keep POV simple, you can write more

When you write fiction, you’re writing an entertainment. Entertaining your readers needs to be your primary goal. Choosing the appropriate POV makes writing easier, and you can write more.

POV isn’t complicated, as long as remember WHO you are — which fictional character, that is — in a scene.

Let’s look at my simple “rules” for point of view (POV.)

There are two:

  • One character’s POV per scene;
  • Limit POV characters in your short story or novel.

You can break these rules of course, as long as you know why you’re doing it. Generally speaking, I prefer to stick with one POV per scene, and rarely have more than three POV characters in a novel, no matter how long the novel happens to be.

Sticking with the two simple rules makes editing easier. Here’s why.

When it comes to editing, one of your challenges is: what does this character know at this point in the story? If you keep switching POVs within scenes, you’ll hurt your brain trying to work it out, and it makes editing HARD. If you know me at all, you know that I prefer to keep things simple. Then you can focus on writing, and pleasing your readers. (And on writing more.)

A tip: write something first, then decide on POV

Let’s say you’re starting a novel. You’ve got a basic idea, and a concept. (We’ve discussed concept.)

Start writing. Don’t worry about POV yet. When you start writing, you’ll have chosen a POV instinctively. Nine times out of ten, your instinct is correct. Here’s how to tell whether it’s the correct choice. Ask yourself whether you’re comfortable.

If you’re writing easily — ideas come to you, and word flow effortlessly, you’ve made the right choice.

I don’t want to belabor POV too much. You’ve read lots of fiction. Your subconscious knows what you’re writing, even though you aren’t consciously aware of it. The big danger with discussing technique, and thinking about it, is that you’ll stifle your creativity.

First person POV is challenging

I enjoy writing first person POV — viz: “Late that night, I hurried to meet him. He’d left.” But I rarely use it, because it becomes tedious, especially at novel-length.

The big challenge with first person POV is that it’s constrictive. You can only show what your POV character knows, sees, hears and feels. That cuts off your options.

That said, if you find yourself trapped in first person POV, and need to escape, write a few scenes in another character’s POV. Why not? If your story needs it, do it.

Close third person is often the most useful POV

In close third person, you’re inside your viewpoint character; it’s almost like first person. “Late that night, she hurried to meet him. You can’t escape me, not this time. He’d left.”

Do what you need to do: it’s your story

Remember the two rules. They’ll keep POV simple and manageable for you. Beyond that, do what your story requires. And have fun — it makes you more creative.

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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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.

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