Friday, June 27, 2008

Nowhere scenes

Even when I didn't know my mechanics, everything I wrote usually pointed somewhere. I guess all that reading helped because I could tell when something was "off". Recently, I've been reading stories with scenes that go nowhere. And not in the sense of something that comes out of the blue, but pieces of writing that have the hero and heroine doing something that has nothing to do with the plot.

After thinking about it for awhile, I kind of figure it's a transition issue. When a story spans more than a day, something has to happen. I mean--your people eat, right? And sleep, and have breakfast--and interact with other people, and say hello. The trouble is none of that belongs in your book, unless it forwards your plot or character development in some way.

A story is like a Lego ladder. Space surrounded by plastic blocks. The space needs to be there for your mind to interpret it as a ladder, but you don't have to give the space a name. Each rung--like each scene, serves the greater purpose. If you were to add a long, windy piece that spirals sideways, yeah--it'd be cool, but you couldn't stand on it, and it's not a support pole--so what's the point?

If I can condense the scene into a short transition, even better--unless it's totally meaningless. A good way to check--you know, in case you're overly attached, and I know I get overly attached--is to do a quick synopsis.

John went to a banquet where he talked to a random stranger about the seawall, ate dinner, and went home. Then he went to bed. The next morning...

Right, the next morning is the only thing I want to keep, because the story only starts to move again, in the morning or I wouldn't be sketching in daylight.

5 comments:

Deanna said...

Thanks. Lego ladder. I'll have to remember that, and now I'm itching to find my son's old Lego set in the attic.

Unhinged said...

I'm like you in that my scenes usually GO somewhere. I've always been good with that (well, nobody's said anything different). I was never one of those writers who showed characters pulling on socks, clipping the lease on the dog's collar, or opening and shutting the door.

Then again? I was never any damn good at Legos either...

Unhinged said...

Um. I meant leash.

Jeanna said...

Fiction sounds hard, Jeanna write for lowest common denominator, it easier, pay not good.

jodi said...

lol, me Tarzan--that makes you Jane, Jeanna.