Drawing by a student
Are you writing your novel in scenes?
If not, you should be. Here’s why:
- It helps the flow of your story, keeping the reader engaged.
- It makes plotting the novel much less intimidating.
- It gives you a sense of closure–like you’ve accomplished something, because scenes are shorter than chapters.
Let me illustrate: Let’s say you write three 1500 word scenes a week–which hypothetically equal one chapter. If your book has twenty chapters you could write your novel in twenty weeks. FIVE months. Doesn’t that sound doable? It is! It helps when when you can break down one large novel into scenes.
Let’s break it down further. There are two types of scenes: ACTIVE and REACTIVE
Each scene MUST have a purpose. What is it? What is your character’s goal for that scene? If it’s a step toward accomplishing the story goal then it’s an ACTIVE scene.
Here’s an example:
In The Hunger Games, when Katniss decides to go to the Cornucopia to get the medicine that will save Peeta’s life, she’s working toward her story goal–winning the Games. She knows she needs to cure Peeta if he’s going to help her win. This is an ACTIVE scene.
A REACTIVE scene is when the author shows how the main character feels emotionally about something that happened to her. Usually it’s something negative.
Remember when Rue died and Katniss took time to give her a decent burial? This is an example of a REACTIVE scene. When Katniss mourns Rue’s loss, she’s not working toward reaching her story goal. She’s taking time to REACT emotionally to what happened to her in the previous ACTIVE scene–when Rue is killed.
In commercial fiction there are typically more ACTIVE scenes. In literary fiction it feels like there are more REACTIVE scenes because these novels explore more internal emotion in the main character.
Now it’s your turn. Look at the following example and tell me if it’s an ACTIVE or REACTIVE scene:
KATNISS AND PEETA DECIDE TO EAT THE BERRIES.
Note: This post was inspired by James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure.