During a busy business career, I always had an itch to write. I took night classes in writing, including writing short stories and poetry. In retirement and in forced seclusion from the Covid virus, I decided to take my own shot at the Great American Novel.
I began with a “once upon a time” narration of continuous events. Please don’t shudder; I didn’t know any better. Not liking the results, I remembered another night course I had taken – screen writing. (Well, I was living in L.A. at the time.)
Movies are not narratives. They move from scene to scene, often jumping back and forth in time. The key to structuring my book came to me in a flash! I just had to put my characters in a scene and then move on to the next scene. I didn’t have to write a great novel; I just had to write a good scene, then the next one.
What is a good scene? Again, harkening back to that screenwriting class, ask yourself, “What is the camera seeing?” Sometimes, in the case of abstractions in your writing, the camera is seeing nothing. Blank screens are a no-no. And exposition is usually boring your reader. Put something in front of that camera.
Is the scene indoors or outdoors? What season is it? What is the locale? Where, geographically, is it?
What year or era is it? Is it day or night? From what the camera is seeing, how does your reader know the answers to these questions? (Readers, annoyingly, like to know where they are.)
After the camera has answered the readers’ questions, step back and look at your scene.
Is it interesting? Does it evoke emotion? Is the emotion appropriate to the action and the characters? Does it move the story forward? Is the setting period correct for the time? Are the costumes appropriate to the characters? Are they interesting?
What an order! All that and the characters haven’t spoken a word or moved a muscle! Take heart. It’s like going to the gym for workouts. The first few scenes will be tough (If you do the work), but it gets easier as you go along. You will find yourself applying these guides automatically as you are writing and not facing as much editing to get them right.
Is this the only way to write a novel? Of course not. There are as many ways as there are writers. This is a way that helped me get my book off the ground. Maybe it will help you with yours. At least it’s a place to start, and isn’t that always the hardest part of writing?
Put your characters in a good scene and watch them come to life. Mine did.
Author of They Also Serve.
About The Author
Darrell Wyatt is a retired businessman and avid reader and amateur historian. Over his life he has studied many writing formats and written short stories and poetry for his classes. His work involved writing professional papers for his companies to incorporate in their operating procedures and systems.
They Also Serve is his first novel and due for publication in August 2022. It is the story of the young American women who kept the country running while their men went to war in WWII.