Monday, December 31, 2012

Scene Goals: What Do Your Characters Want, Why Do They Want It, How Do They Get it?

Scene Goals: What Do Your Characters Want, Why Do They Want It, How Do They Get it?

Merry (almost) New Year! Today I'm going to talk about scenes and how to make sure each one pulls its weight in your story. First, though, I would like to solicit ideas from you, the wonderful folks who read my blog.


What sort of topics interest you?


1) Writing
2) Editing
3) How to self publish
4) News about the book industry and where things are headed
5) The structure of stories
6) What editors/publisher are looking for and how to help your story get accepted
7) Time management: setting goals, scheduling to your time, etc.
8) Platform building: Do writers need to blog? Social media: Do we need it and, if so, how much?
9) How to grow your twitter following
10) Indie publishing: How to design a great cover
11) Programs and apps that help writers
12) [Insert your topic here]

What kind of articles about writing would you most like to read in 2013? Do you have a specific question you'd like answered? You can leave a comment on this post, or contact me directly through my contact page, here. I'm also on Twitter and Google+. I'd love to hear from you! :-)


Scenes: How To Write A Riveting Scene


Now that I've made my impassioned appeal for your feedback (grin) let's move on to something writing related: scenes and how to write a scene your readers won't be able to put down.

I'm working my way through the second draft of my NaNoWriMo manuscript and I'm thinking about things like:

- What should each scene accomplish? 
- What are the essential elements any scene has to have?

Fortunately for the writing world we have Larry Brooks and his marvelous site, StoryFix.com. Larry writes:
Have each scene CHANGE the story and the reader's experience of it, even just a little.
That's from the article, Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before You Write a Scene. Any Scene.

In other words: What do your characters DO in your story and what DRIVES them to do it?

What are their goals? Why do they want those goals? What are the stakes? What happens if they don't accomplish their goal? What happens if they do? Cash this out in concrete terms.

On Christmas day I watched all three original Star Wars movies, so I'll use Luke Skywalker as my example. If Luke failed to destroy the Death Star in A New Hope then the Empire would have crushed the resistance movement and taken control of the galaxy. If he does, then the Rebel alliance has a chance.

But that example didn't have to do with scene goals, it had to do with story goals. Remember the scene where we meet Luke and his uncle for the first time? What is Luke's goal? To help his uncle find two droids to help out with farm duties. Luke is hoping that if the droids work out well that he can leave the farm and go to school. C-3PO, on the other hand, simply wants to escape his captors and not be separated from R2-D2 while R2-D2 wants to continue the quest Princess Leia gave him.

My point is that all the principle characters in the scene want something. Something tangible. Something that is easy to state in a few words.


The Kinds Of Things Characters Want


K.M. Weiland from WORDplay talks about the kind of things your character might want in a scene:
1. Something concrete (an object, a person, etc.).
2. Something incorporeal (admiration, information, etc.)
3. Escape from something physical (imprisonment, pain, etc.).
4. Escape from something mental (worry, suspicion, fear, etc.).
5. Escape from something emotional (grief, depression, etc.).
Those 5 points are from Structuring Your Story's Scenes, Pt. 3: Options for Goals in a Scene. It's a terrific article. If you haven't already, I recommend subscribing to her blog feed, she writes many articles about writing and every one I've read has helped me.


Evaluate Your Scene Goals


Another thing Weiland mentions is testing your goals. She writes:
1. Does the goal make sense within the overall plot?
2. Is the goal inherent to the overall plot?
3. Will the goal’s complication/resolution lead to a new goal/conflict/disaster?
4. If the goal is mental or emotional (e.g., be happy today), does it have a physical manifestation (e.g, smile at everyone)? (This one isn’t always necessary, but allowing characters to outwardly show their goals offers a stronger presentation than mere telling, via internal narrative.)
5. Does the success or failure of the goal directly affect the scene narrator? (If not, his POV probably isn’t the right choice.)
I'm going to try and keep these points in mind as I continue editing my manuscript today.

Talk to you again tomorrow!

Please do think about the questions I asked, above:

What sort of articles about writing would you most like to read in 2013? Or do you have a specific question you'd like answered? 

I'm going to leave you with this quotation from Stephen King. It doesn't have any direct bearing on what I've been talking about, but I thought it was great advice and wanted to share:
The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing . . . . It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn't, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. (The Real Importance of Reading, AdviceToWriters.com)
Talk to you again in the New Year! (wave)

Other articles you might like:

- How To Sell Books Without Using Amazon KDP Select
- Edward Robinson And How To Sell Books Using Amazon KDP Select
- The Magic Of Stephen King: How To Write Compelling Characters & Great Openings

Photo credit: "PopStar" by Wolfgang Staudt under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

1 comment:

  1. I prefer the writing to be done from the POV of the characters. I don't like it when the narrator is omnipresent and omniscient. It's a lot easier to indentify with an organic character, and to experience the story from their own organic point of view. The narrator is just a camera that follows them from the back, and when necessary enters inside their minds to reveal thoughts, fears, and regrets.
    This system of telling a story can be a burdensome task, moreso than its counter part systems. For one thing, it eats up a lot of volume of words. You have to balance out descriptions, lore, surroundings, other dialogues (other characters), and the main character or chapter character's unspoken thoughts. If you love to write at length, and go bible styel 800+ pages, then you'll have to dedicate a lot of time for the effort. To quote Baldrick from Blackadder, "I can't stand long books." A lot of readers feel this way, especially about GRRM. Book length can easily be a nieche thing, regardless of subject category. Therefore, the author has to weigh in all these things, and balance them out, while retaining the character's organic manifestation and motivation behind it, descriptions, lore, action, and so on. I think it's important to expose lies and use the opposite of euphemisitc language, i.e. truth. Of course, strong language might go against your marke goals, but I find honest words, regardless of how crude or cruel they sound, to be the most authentic and true. Evil characters as well as good ones use the same thinking and methods of the two notions, and apply it according to context. How we feel, what we think, and how we are, are three very different things. And choice is never easy. Good things can lead to evil things - in the field of statistics, it's called perverse effects - and evil things can lead to good ones. A universe and its characters require shades, not black and white. With absolute laws there can be no justice. Motivations need to be understood by the reader. Of course, there are a lot of sheep outhere, who hate some characters, because they think them "evil". Tragedy teaches us that there are no such things as tragic characters, only tragic societies/contexts.
    On the feedback issue - I'm interested in all those things you mentioned. My recommendation would be the discussing of more controversial things. For instance, is it important for an author to expose his religious, political, social views to his readers? Are readers interested in the mind behind the words? I for one think it's very important. I wouldn't read the fiction or nonfiction of an author who's against pro-choice, or who's an adept of fundamentalism, or who's an adept of atheism and claims with absolute certainty that there is no such thing or principle as god (even radical empiricism doesn't deny the possibility of the existence of transempiric entities, though, it is not concerned with them, for we cannot ever know them, given their superior nature). I'm curious if the nocomment stance, which is super majoritarian, brings more of a following, rather than being open with the readers about such things.
    Ms. Woodward, I'm sorry for making you read so much text, but you wanted input, and I gave it. ^^ I'll read you later. Now I have to go back to that tedious eye reddening process, called editing.

    ReplyDelete

Because of the number of bots leaving spam I had to prevent anonymous posting. My apologies to anyone this inconveniences, I wish I didn't have to do it. I do appreciate each and every comment.