The Anatomy Of A Scene

UnknownAnybody that has read my work, knows that most of my blogs spin off of my own weaknesses. And there are many. I figure if I’m having problems with a certain aspect of writing, there are probably many others who are too.

So today I thought I would focus on writing scenes. As you may have guessed, I was shredded to pieces  in a recent critique, and rightfully so.

I presented a 3000 word excerpt from my novel for review, I did say 3000 words, and a friendly critique (she really was nice), pointed out that I had managed to squeeze 10 different locations/scenes into those 3000 words. It was overwhelming and the scenes were like flybys.

I have a very complicated novel, with many twists and turns, which could be a good thing. But, in my haste to get through them all, I’m not providing a cohesive story, and many of my scenes are lacking.

So how do I correct my mistakes? I put together a scene and a sequel. They work together to form one cohesive scene. A scene leads naturally to a sequel. At some point, you will end the cycle. The POV character will either succeed or fail. I would opt for succeed:-)

Scenes are as follows:

  1. Goal- What the POV person wants at the beginning of the scene. It must be specific and clearly definable.
  2. Conflict- The series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching their Goal.  There has to be conflict or your reader will be bored.
  3. Disaster- Is a failure of you POV person to reach his goal. This is a good thing in writing. Hold off on success until the very end. If you allow your POV to reach his goal to early, then your reader has no reason to go on.

***All three of these are critical to make the scene successful.***

Sequels are as follows:

  1. Reactions- Is the emotional follow through to a disaster. Show your POV acting viscerally to his disaster, but remember he can’t stay there. He has to get a grip.
  2. Dilemma- A situation with no good options. A real dilemma gives your reader a chance to worry. That’s good, you want them emotionally involved. At the end let your POV choose the least of the bad options.
  3. Decision- Your POV has to make a choice. This lets your POV become proactive again. People who never make decisions are boring.

Hope this helped. I pulled most of my information off of the ‘advancedfictionwriting’ web site. That’s hosted by Randy Ingermanson-“the snowflake Guy”.  He provides some great information for writers of all levels. You should check him out.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. Happy Writing!

-Jan R



The Anatomy Of A Scene

Make your Minor Characters Memorable


I received this critique the past week in regards to four minor characters in my novel. “A lot of new characters have been introduced and they all run together in my mind. I think more time needs to be spent developing these characters as individuals rather than some generic group of friends.”

I didn’t provide much description of the characters, because they were only in one full chapter and part of another. I didn’t think descriptions were necessary. They served one purpose and one purpose only. They did their job and disappeared.

Well today I was reading my newest edition of  Writers Digest, and bumped into an article on Minor Characters. Maybe somebody is trying to tell me something.

According to Elizabeth Sims, If the person is important enough to exist in the world of your story, let your readers picture that existence.

When you introduce Minor Characters, you should have one or better two details.  He was as wide as he was tall, and talked with a lisp.

Even characters who exist in passing, should exist in the readers eye. For a literally glancing description, make it visual. The freckle faced boy stuck his tongue out at us, then turned to go inside.

If you have a group-Pan the crowd and then zoom in. Give one or two details describing them all, and then move in to one person as the representative.  The demonstrators walked down Main street, waving their signs, and shouting obscenities.  “Where is the Mayor, ” shouted a tall gray haired man at the front of the line.

So there you have it. I guess I need to go back and give my Minor Characters some life 🙂

-Jan R


Make your Minor Characters Memorable

Head Hopping Again?

images-6I had another segment of my book critiqued today and got dinged on the POV. I couldn’t believe it. The reviewer was correct. I was jumping into the head of several of my main characters throughout the segment.

I know that for whatever reason, this writing 101 concept does not come easy for me. I also know, that if you want a book published, you had better get the POV under control.

I sent my novel to an agent, prematurely I might add, and she was kind enough to reject it with reasons why. I was head hopping. To be honest, I had never heard that term before. Being a novice, untrained in the art of creative writing, I’ve had to learn my way around this world. There’s a lot more to it than being able to string a group of sentences together.

The secret to making your POV work is limiting it to one perspective per scene, chapter, or book. When you start jumping around from one POV character to another in the same scene/paragraph/sentence you have committed a cardinal sin. HEAD HOPPING.

If you are writing in Third Person and Lauren is your POV character, you can’t write–Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but Janie didn’t believe her. I was just in Lauren’s head and Janie’s head. How am I suppose to know what Janie is thinking, If I’m limited to Lauren’s POV? What you could write is –Lauren said she would meet Janie at the mall, but she could tell from her friend’s response, that she didn’t believe her.

Hope this helped somebody. There is a lot of information on the internet about POV. I obviously still haven’t grasped it. 🙂

I would like to ask you to consider following me on this journey, and would love to hear your thoughts.

Head Hopping Again?

Don’t Let Anyone Derail Your Work

imagesI received a really nice critique today from someone who loved my work. I have to admit I smiled and perked right up. I feel like I’ve taken a beating lately with critiques and it can be discouraging.

Quintessentialeditor has a great post on writing groups/critiques; just published. He talks about ground rules that should be in place and sticking to the Authors agenda and needs.

While most of my critiques have been pretty much spot on, there have been quite a few people lately, that do more advising than critiquing.  They try to take over your story and tell you how they think you should approach a situation.

With those people I simply say, “Thank you for the critique” and quietly trash it. Always remember this is your story and your vision. Don’t let someone else derail your work. It doesn’t mean you can’t read their comments and consider their points. I’ve received some good advice as well.

I also try to remember, that most people providing those hurtful critiques, want to help, but as Quintessentialeditor says, they need some ground rules.

It may be necessary to cut ties with some critique partners. This is an extreme, but you don’t want to allow anyone to crush your dream. You have to decide, who is helping you on your journey and who is holding you back.

-Jan R


Don’t Let Anyone Derail Your Work

Critiques Are Good!

So I just realized it’s Thursday and I’m leaving for Ohio in two hours! Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but  I haven’t written my blog for today. I am too busy. How do you forget something you’ve been doing every Tuesday and Thursday for the last five months?

So I’m continuing with the revision of my book, and if you follow me, you know I’m having it critiqued by other aspiring authors on Scribophile. I know I’ve already promoted the site, but let me say it one more time. If you have started a novel, or want to start a novel, sign up. It’s free. They do offer extras for a $65 dollar a year fee, but you don’t need to bother with that. At least not until you’ve check it out and know for sure it’s working for you.  You can post work and do critiques without the membership.

At any rate, I’ve developed somewhat of a friendship with one of the members, who far surpasses my writing skills, I might add, and we are critiquing each others work as it is posted.  I messaged her today to let her know that I posted a new segment and to apologize in advance.

It amazes me, how many errors I miss. Am I getting better? Truthfully yes, but my work still looks like a Christmas tree when she finishes marking it up. The bad part is, the mistakes are so obvious when she points them out.  I’m a pretty smart lady. Why am I not seeing them ?

The only thing I can come up with, is I’m too close to the story.  Are you too close to your story? I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having others review your work. I’m not talking about family and friends, I’m talking about people who will be honest and know what they are looking for.

I would like to invite you to join me on my journey, as I share my ups, downs, and  information that will hopefully help  you along the way.


Critiques Are Good!

Cut? Or Not To Cut?

imagesSo I’ve been married to my novel for five years. I’ve made some changes along the way, but one thing that has been a constant, is my main character going to Fallujah Iraq.

Anybody that’s been around for a while, knows that Fallujah played a big role in the Iraq War. Camp Baharia was set up just outside the city. It was one of the nicer camps, and the playground of Sudam Husseins son’s, prior to their demise.

Well when I wrote, the framework of my novel five years ago, it was set at the end of the war .  Fallujah had been won by the allies, and our marines were still there, to maintain order, and ensure no further uprisings. Which was why my main character had been sent there.

Since that time, Fallujah has been taken over by Isis, and there is major fighting going on, as the Iraqi forces, along with the US and other allies, attempt to take it back.

With that being said, my husband encouraged me a year ago, to rethink Fallujah. He thought the current conflicts, and notoriety of the region, would cause serious doubts and credibility issues with my story.  Well I didn’t want to listen to him, Fallujah was in my story, it had been there all along and I didn’t want to change it.

Today I got a critique from a very skilled writer. Her main problem with the story, as you probably guessed already, was Fallujah, Iraq.

My husband loved that, and gave me the told you so look. I wish I could say he rose above it and didn’t say anything, but he quickly reminded me that he wasn’t a dummy. He knew what he was talking about:-)

One of the things I’ve heard time and time again from experienced writer, is sometimes you have to throw the baby out. That’s part of writing, but it doesn’t make it any easier.

So I’m throwing the baby out and looking for another Camp, maybe in Afghanistan.

If you’re on the fence, just do it. The sooner you let go, and move on, the sooner you’ll get that novel completed. You might miss your baby for a while, but I’m thinking you’ll get over it, especially when your story comes together the way it was supposed to.

I Would love for you to join me on this journey. Simply press the follow button at the bottom, right hand corner of this blog and enter your email address. You will receive a message whenever I write a new blog or update an existing one. If you have any comments, I would love to hear those as well.


Cut? Or Not To Cut?

How Do You Use Commas In Sentences You May Ask

Commas are an albatross around my neck. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic but they are frequently my downfall in writing prose. Unfortunately, they are the most common punctuation mark within sentences, so you had better learn their proper use.

What’s the purpose of commas?

  1. Separate main clauses linked by a coordinating conjunction.

example: The house was built, but it had no tenants.

The meal was cooked, and the kitchen was cleaned.

2.  Set off most introductory elements.

example: Unfortunately, the rest of the house was a mess.

Of course, I would love to go.

3.  Set off nonessential elements (phrases that could be removed from the sentence and

not effect its meaning.

example: The injury, sustained from the fall, needed to be taken care of.

The injury needed to be taken care of-is the actual sentence. The words set

apart by the commas are informative but not necessary to convey the idea.

4.  Separate item in a series/list.

example:  She had eggs, grits, sausage, and bacon for breakfast.

5.  Separate coordinate adjectives.

example:  She was an independent, hardworking woman.

The warm, cozy comforter was all I needed.

6.  Separate quotations and signal phrases( she said, he wrote, said Elsie).

example: “Knowledge is power,” wrote Francis Bacon.

Lisa said, “Do not walk on the grass.”

     There are some exceptions to this rule.

example: “That part of my life was over,” she wrote. “His words had sealed it shut.”

“Claude!” Jamie called.

James Baldwin insists that “one must never, in ones life,

accept…injustices as commonplace.” (It’s integrated into the sentence so

a comma isn’t necessary.)

7. Separate parts of dates, addresses, place names, and long numbers.

example:  July 4, 1776, is independence day.  December 1941(doesn’t need a comma)

Raleigh, North Carolina, is the location of NC State University.

Do not use a comma between a state name and a zip code.

Use the comma to separate long numbers in groups of three. With numbers of 4 digits,                     the comma is optional.

Okay, now you know what I know. This exercise was as much for me as it was for you.         Hopefully I can retain the information and use it, during my next revision 🙂


How Do You Use Commas In Sentences You May Ask

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

images-8Many of  my writer friends are familiar with this title. It’s the number one bestseller by Lynne Truss. If you don’t have it, I recommend that you get it. You can probably find used copies on amazon. I bought mine at a library book sale for fifty cents. If you had to pay full price it would only cost you eleven dollars. That’s not a lot to pay for perfect punctuation.

So if you’re following my posts, you know that I became a member of Scribophile(not Scribofile as I spelled in previous blog). I corrected my first critique and worked out my POV only to be waylaid by my incorrect use of commas.

Because of my fear of overusing them, I haven’t been using enough. My last critique was 75% punctuation errors, with about 75% of that being comma use. No Way-right. I fixed one thing and found another. Unfortunately, I think that’s part of the process. As I’ve said many times before, writing is a lot more complicated than it looks.

With that being said, commas are a very important part of a sentence. They not only give you a short break to catch your breath, but they can actually change the meaning of your sentence.

Thus the title of the book.  Look at the two examples and read them with the break provided by the commas. In may help also to know there are pandas on the cover doing silly things. But if you read allowing breaks that shouldn’t matter.

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

Eats Shoots and Leaves.

Now is that panda eating shoots and leaves or shooting somebody? That’s up to you and how you use punctuation.

I know that’s a simple illustration, but a lot of times that’s what we need to see the obvious. Punctuation is important!

I am sitting here with my copy of Eats Shoots and Leaves correcting punctuation and preparing to post part 3 of my novel.

Have a great day. Hope this helped somebody.

If you have any comments, I would love to hear from you. I would also like to request that you consider following me on my Journey. Simply press the follow button and enter your email address. You will receive a  notice whenever I make a new post or revise and old one.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

Head Hopping/Inconsistent Point Of View

So I just had a section of the first chapter of the novel I’ve written critiqued by members of Scribofile. Everyone came back and said I had problems with my POV. I was head hopping. I couldn’t believe it. I thought I had figured that one out. I know there’s first person, second person, and third person.

What I was doing was writing like my story was third person omniscient when in actuality it is third person limited. Which means I can’t be in everybody’s head whenever I want to be, I have to choose certain POV characters and stay out of the heads of the rest of my cast, and I have to limit POV switches.

If you switch POV characters to quickly or dive into the heads of too many characters at once, it can Jar the reader and break the intimacy with the scenes main character. In other words, going back and forth between POV characters, can give a reader whiplash.

So how do I fix this? One suggestion I’ve gotten is to actually assign POV Characters( the main characters in your story). Write at least a full chapter from ones POV before switching to the next one.

Another suggestion that breaks it down even further is to read the passage in question, go back and highlight all of the POV words in that section, and change them to match the primary POV that has already been established. For example- If I’m writing in third person, my pronouns should be she/he or her/his not I,me,my or you, yours.

I’m heading back to the drawing board so to speak and attempting to get this POV in order. I would love to hear any other suggestions on POV that may help me in this endeavor.

Please consider joining me on this journey. I blog twice a week with an occasional reedit. You will receive emails notifying you whenever I make a new or revised entry. It is my endeavor to provide useful information and hopefully help you to avoid the same mistakes I have made.

-Jan R


Head Hopping/Inconsistent Point Of View