Write Great Scenes to Build Great Stories – Quick Writing Tips

writing conflict

Action, Conflict, Scenes! Scenes and summary are building blocks of stories–both fiction and memoir. A scene is a piece of story action, rendered continuously moment-by-moment, without summary, but with action and, often, dialogue. A scene can be acted out on stage. She wants, he wants: Characters work in conflict. If they both want to go to the same party and they go, sorry, no conflict, no scene. In contrast, let’s say Joe and Suzy are on their third date and Joe wants to take Suzy to Dave’s party. Dave is Joe’s best friend. But Suzy absolutely doesn’t want to go to Dave’s party–Joe just pointed …

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That crazy writer…

When you are writing a book, you must learn to listen very closely for what editor Tom Jenks calls the heartbeat of the story. Sometimes you may confuse your own heartbeat with the narrative heartbeat. If you allow your emotional highs and lows to push you around–they may also end up pushing around your prose. Your anxiety, exhaustion, or mania may show up on the page. It’s not that you shouldn’t use your own experience to connect with characters–you should. Your fears and the fears of your protagonist are the same when it comes to their deepest nature. Your shared …

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#NaNoWriMo2015-Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #28)

When I fall in love with a book it is because I experience the story as if it lives and breathes inside me; I can summon and recall the evocative and pivotal images as clearly as if I’d been there. Because I am there, each time I dive into a story I love, I participate as a reader and the most powerful images are a dance of the visual and the visceral. Make wise use of the pivotal images of the story you are writing. What is the opening image of your story? Visualize your hero just as the story …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #14)

When it comes to understanding the story you are writing, teachers stress the importance of knowing what your hero desires, yearns for, desperately wants! They will probably remind you that her goal (want) is something that can be measured externally, in the world. It’s also a very good idea, they say, to know the meaning your hero attaches to getting what she wants. This meaning is internal, having to do with her most vulnerable emotional wounds. Example: She will do almost anything to get that promotion because then she’ll feel validated and successful (instead of feeling like the failure in her …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #10)

Over the course of writing seven novels on deadline, I’ve found that there are times I need to get closer to my characters, and there are times I need distance, at least temporarily. If you’re struggling with either of these issues, take these tips to heart: More Intimacy: I need to get inside my character’s skin! If you’re feeling some distance between yourself and your novel, here is a simple way to write your way to more intimacy: 1) Pick one of your upcoming scenes, an interaction between your hero and at least one other character. Your hero is the viewpoint …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #6)

Action is vital in fiction. But the action must fit the story. If you are writing a gentle love story you will probably not include car chases and IEDs. However you might include a hero who obsesses over a “potential” or “lost” love to the point of stalking. “Really, I was just picking up my dry-cleaning and can I help it if you work next door?” Details are also a vital part of bringing a fictional world and its inhabitants to life–however a wise writer chooses dynamic details, meaning those details that reveal something about the inner and outer life …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #5)

It’s National Novel Writing Month and many writers around the world are in gear and cranking out pages! Yesterday, my tip was about writing in drafts–and the quick (and shitty) first draft aligns with getting your novel done in 30 days (although even when I’m fast, I’m not that fast!). Today my tip is for those moments when you feel you might be veering off track, stumbling into deep water, and all the other cliches that basically mean you feel lost and disconnected from your story.  Don’t panic, this counts as a normal part of first-drafting. When you feel you …

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#NaNoWriMo2015–Get to the Heart of Your Story (writing tip #3)

Make it easy on yourself–keep your characters in action and in relationship. Physical interaction and dialogue between two (or three) characters is one of the easiest ways to reveal deep traits. When we witness your hero counseling a 12-year-old runaway we will judge your hero’s level of compassion and concern, we will probably get a glimpse of her past and the wound that leaves her vulnerable, and depending upon the 12-year-old’s responses, we’ll know if she is street savvy or naive–in our eyes and in the eyes of the ‘tween. When you begin writing the scene, you will likely identify …

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