Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Back To School

So, my WIP’s going to hell. Not contentually (hm…spellcheck doesn’t like that word, but then it doesn’t seem to like the word spellcheck either). If the lives of the characters were going down the tubes, that’d be okay. In fact, that’d be cool. That’s what you, Sally Jo Writer, are supposed to do: torture your characters.

Instead, they’re torturing me.

I decided it was time to return to the craft books. One of my faves is Dwight Swain’s Techniques of the Selling Writer. The truth is, I’ve never made it all the way through because there’s so much good stuff in the first 100 pages that I usually get all excited and ditch reading in favor of putting his ideas to work.

Mostly what I focus on when I pick up his book is scene structure. What’s a scene? Hey, thanks for asking. Not quoting, mind you, ‘cuz I don’t have the book handy here at my office where right now I'm getting paid to blog, but my memory says it’s a unit of conflict experienced in one continuous time period. Inherent in that definition is the notion that each and every scene must have a central conflict your character has to live through. And guess what that means? I’ll spell it out for you: it means you wanna avoid all that filler stuff like character greetings, settings that go on and on unless they’re germaine in some way to the conflict—basically, all the mundane stuff we newbie writers tend to be guilty of throwing into our novels.

Broken down, the scene is divided into three segments: goal, conflict, disaster. A sequel follows next, during which the character assesses the dilemma growing out of the disaster, evaluates his/her alternatives, and decides on an action which becomes the new goal.

Dry as shit, huh?

Wish it didn’t make so much sense.

Wish there were more of it in my WIP.

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