I had the opportunity to listen to a publisher discuss problems he sees in manuscripts the other day. While he focused on several major components of the novel during his session, I want to talk a little about scenes.
Most of you should have a pretty good understanding about what a scene is and how it fits into the novel. Your story is actually a series of scenes that continue until they reach the climax and finish.
Now there are many ways to mess up a scene, but he called attention to some things I had never really thought about, so I wanted to share them with my readers.
The most obvious mistake is jumping from one scene to the next with nothing in between. John is in the car driving home from work, and then he miraculously appears in the kitchen having an argument with his wife. What just happened? The writer failed to provide a transition.
While some people add a transition at the end of the previous scene, most transitions are provided at the beginning of the new scene. Within the first few lines actually. I never knew how important those lines were, until I saw the podcast.
So what is the purpose of the first few lines of your scene?
- They establish the point of view. With in the first few lines, I should know who’s head I’m in.
- The first few lines should establish the place where the scene occurs. When you open a scene with two people talking, your reader won’t be able to visualize where they are and what’s going on. They could be sitting in John’s living room, or walking the streets of New York City. By forcing your reader to try to figure this out, you are pulling them out of the story.
- Those first few lines should establish a sense of time. Is it day or night? Maybe he’s nervous because he’s suppose to meet someone in 15 minutes and he is 25 minutes away.
Enough about scenes for today. If you need more information, I have a blog post on the anatomy of a scene, and I would highly recommend a visit to Randy Ingermanson’s (the snowflake guy) blog.