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Crafting a Scene

You learned it in ninth grade English, right?  Almost every short story starts with rising action, moves through complications, reaches a climax, and ends with falling action.  Novels work the same way.

And so should your scenes.

Many times, new authors make the mistake of just writing a scene with the protagonist doing stuff related to the main plot of a subplot.  But every scene really should be carefully constructed, structured to follow the short story model.  Even if the protagonist is just talking a walk to think about something.

Every scene in your novel should be a little short story.  The scene starts off with something happening, or trying to happen. The protagonist has a little problem to solve--Fred needs to get information from someone, Ivy needs to break into a house, Jake has to get permission from his mother to go to the park.

The scene continues with the protagonist trying to solve the problem--Fred talks to the person, Ivy tries the front door, Jake finds his Mommy on the couch.

Then we have complications--the person tells Fred to screw off, the door is locked, Mommy is clearly in a bad mood.

The protagonist should then try to solve the problem at least twice and FAIL both times.  If you're really good, the problem will get worse--the person takes a punch at Fred, a police car drives down the block toward Ivy, Mommy snarls at Jake that he has to clean all three bathrooms in the house by himself before he can go anywhere.

And then the protagonist finds an interesting way to solve the problem at the last moment.  Fred dodges the punch and tells the other guy his mom is named Martha, too, so they become friends and talk for hours.  Ivy dives into the bushes and finds an open basement window before the cops see her.  Jake pays his sister to help him clean the bathrooms so he can go to the park.

And then the next scene begins.

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