Showing posts from September, 2016

Scene Blocking: What It Is, Why Do It, and How

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles You're reading a fight scene in a book, and you're having trouble seeing what's happening. It's hard to follow. You keep backing up and re-reading the passage, trying to get a handle on the action. Odds are, the scene is incorrectly or poorly blocked. What Is Scene Blocking? Scene blocking looks at the geographical space in the story, identifying where the characters, objects, and events occur. The author needs to take the time to determine the layout. In some cases, authors sketch it to see how everything interacts. One of my favorite authors, C E Murphy , checks her blocking by role playing her fight scenes with her husband. That's got to be fun! Why Should You Check Your Scene Blocking? Some of the issues I've observed while critiquing others' work include a weapon in a character's hand that still holds a horse's reins or grips an elbow in pain. They never put down the reins or

Getting Your Facts Straight: 5 Useful Sources

Several years ago, while taking a Creative Writing class at a local university, something bugged me about a classmate's short story.  It gave me pause until I realized the problem.  His main character, while driving at night in heavy traffic, noticed the flashing brake lights of the cars in oncoming traffic. Did You Catch the Mistake? I'll give you a moment to think about it. Re-read the last sentence of the previous section if you missed it. Ok.  Time's up. If cars are heading toward you, you can not see their brake lights. My current writing group knows I will check their writing for accuracy.  It's not that I'm an expert on everything, because I'm not . If you're writing about guns, I probably won't catch a mistake, but if it's about something I know or love (giraffes, raising kids, growing up in the South) I'll be all over it. I'm not alone. My writing group is great in this regard. In fact our members will sometimes pre-em

Story Time Lines: 7 Steps to Checking For Issues

Getting the time line of your story correct requires attention to detail. (Click to Tweet) A few years ago, I hired an editor to review my manuscript for plot issues. Most of her feedback resonated quickly and I knew exactly what to do, but one comment surprised me: "I'm not sure how much time has passed here."   The story has multiple subplots, and a few times when it jumped to a different plot point, she couldn't determine how much time had passed in that sub-plot in relation to others. How Did I Fix It? At first, I thought, No way, my story is chronological.   But I paid good money for her feedback, and I had experienced this same problem when reading published stories.  In fact, I've heard fans complain when an author messes up the timeline. I'm a software trainer, so I popped up one of my favorite apps, Microsoft Excel, and adapted a spread sheet I use to track my chapters, characters, world-building, etc.  I read through the whole manus

The Importance of Setting the Scene in Your Writing, Part 2

Last week, we defined setting. This week, I want to explore how to set the scene in your writing. I've seen writers make one of two mistakes when setting the scene:  not writing enough or writing too much. How much do you need to tell them? It depends on the importance of the setting. In some stories, the setting is so vivid it becomes a character in the story. In other cases, we just need to visualize where we are and what's happening. It doesn't all have to occur in the first sentence, you can filter  in details as the scene progresses as long as you give the reader some idea of the setting. For example, this is the opening scene in a short story I wrote that received several awards including a Pushcart Prize nomination:   The minutes ticked by in agonizing eons, drop by drop in time with the saving liquid in the IV bag hung by Bethany’s bed in the ICU. Jane, her mother, stared at the fluid wondering how it helped, if it helped, her daughter. The yo