Yesterday’s master class “Thinking in Scenes: Projecting Your Fiction on Your Reader’s Mental Movie Screen” at the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference was taught by Angie Hodapp. It was substantive and terrific. I may have been the only “literary” writer in the group; most others were sci-fi or fantasy writers. But boy did I learn (or relearn) some helpful tips. I’m someone who in the past has occasionally been guilty of getting as caught up in the intricacies of language as the intricacies of plot. My natural bent is to finesse the words in the sentences and hope that the plot will take care of itself. In fact, one reason I chose Baby Doe Tabor as the subject of my first novel is because I figured that her fascinating life story provided its own plot. Wrong.
So these last years I’ve been on a mission to better understand and use the mechanics of plot. And Angie’s session yesterday provided some helpful information I thought I’d share.
Angie talked about scenes (where time is continuous, setting is fixed, and POV is usually limited to one character) and scene breaks (which indicate a jump forward or backward in time, a need to switch to a different POV character or move the camera to a different location).
She then talked about when to use summary, when the author tells what happened off screen, and when to use scene, when the author shows us what’s happening on the screen. Here are some times to use summary:
- Skip over a period of time in which not a lot is important that’s important to your plot.
- Ground the reader in a new time, place, or POV.
- Deliver expository tidbits about your story world.
- Deliver snippets of backstory your readers need to understand your characters’ goals or motivation.
Angie then talked about “scene” and “sequel.”
A scene includes:
Objective: Your POV is character is trying to make something happen
Obstacle: Some person, place, thing or circumstance is preventing your POV character from obtaining that objective
Outcome: The scene can end Well, not so well, or terribly
A sequel includes:
Emotion: How your POV character feels about what just happened
Analysis: A run through of the possibilities that exist for your POV character Decision: The decision your POV character makes… which then leads to the next scene’s Objective!
I found this really helpful.