Deep Scene Challenge: Part 3 of 3

Welcome to Part Three of the three-part Deep Scene Challenge. If you’re new to the blog, it’ll be helpful for you to check out MAKING SENSE OF SCENES in the resource area, as well as parts one and two of this post. 

So here we are, everyone, rounding third and heading toward home. I hope you’ve found ways to apply the elements of parts one and two, to push yourself past your normal considerations in constructing a scene in order to add practical and emotional/psychological dimensions to each portion of your novel.

Onto the last little (but critical!) bits…

THE BASICS: OPPOSITION/COMPLICATIONS

Last week, we left off with the concept of GOALS, the driving need that propels your viewpoint character into each scene. Sometimes, those goals are created by events that have unfolded earlier in the piece—the INCITING INCIDENT—and sometimes they come about in relation to your protagonist’s larger story (and life) goals.

In any event, a scene is created around a character’s pursuit of some goal, but it doesn’t become a full-fledged scene until that character meets some opposing force in the scene, someone—or something—with an agenda of depriving the character of what she desires.

So, in each scene, consider what your character wants, and then consider what stands in the way of her getting it.

QUESTIONS TO TAKE YOU DEEPER:

  • In what way is the character in opposition to the viewpoint character on the side of right? Is your viewpoint character able to empathize with that view?
  • In addition to the main force of opposition, what lesser forces act against the viewpoint character in this scene?
  • How does the viewpoint character serve as her own opposition?
  • Does the source of opposition or the nature of the opposition surprise your viewpoint character in any way?
  • Does your scene feature a “contagonist” of any kind, someone who loves/cares for your viewpoint character but who gets in her way as a way of attempting to protect her? 

THE BASICS: INITIAL STRATEGY/PLAN

In order for your scene’s viewpoint character to achieve her goals for the scene, she needs to come up with a strategy for doing so, some plan of attack that forms the basis for her pursuit. 

During the course of the scene, her initial strategy will likely be tested, and she’ll likely be asked to change tactics, to reconsider, to come at her desire from different angles.

QUESTIONS TO TAKE YOU DEEPER:

  • How is the plan abandoned during the course of the scene?
  • How does the viewpoint character regroup psychologically, and what new strategies does she apply as a result of continued opposition in the scene?
  • What hidden resources are revealed during the course of the scene?
  • How does the viewpoint character use her strengths, her vocation, her passions to beneficial effect in the scene?
  • How do the viewpoint character’s less positive traits or lack of experience make it difficult to shift strategies in the scene? 

THE BASICS: RESOLUTION 

Probably most obvious of all is the issue of resolution. Quite literally, how did things turn out for your character? Did she get what she wanted? What discoveries were made? And what now?

And yet this simple issue of resolution could, and should, open all kinds of doors, present all kinds of new obstacles (until the end of the story, of course). Most successful scenes engender more scenes; they startle your protagonist into new actions; force them to dig deeper into their mental and emotional resources; and they prompt them to look at things they don’t want to see, face truths they don’t want to face.

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QUESTIONS TO TAKE YOU DEEPER: 

  • What has the viewpoint character lost or sacrificed as a result of the scene?
  • What has happened in this scene to create an inciting incident for another scene?
  • How has the viewpoint character become more inextricably drawn into      the story and her pursuit?
  • What hidden victory has been achieved?
  • What more obvious victory has been achieved?
  • What has the viewpoint character learned about herself—whether    surprising, heartening, or dismaying?
  • How does this scene create the inciting incident for future scenes?
  • Does the loss or victory in this scene play into the novel’s final resolution?

Any of these questions—in any part of this mini-course—can lead to more questions, more ramifications. As I mentioned early on, they’re not meant to weigh you down or make you feel as though a scene is ONLY successful if it applies every element. They ARE meant to make you stop and think, linger a bit over each scene, add another layer or two or three so that your characters, the public and private stakes of the story, the world in which it all unfolds, becomes more fully charged.

Believe me, the time you take to do the work NOW will pay off—in your writing, in your career, and in the hearts and minds of readers who come to love your work.

-- Lorin