Naughty Transitions are A Writer’s Best Friend

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Naughty Transitions are A Writer's Best Friend
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There are certain traps us writers fall into.

  • We generalize.
  • We are too abstract.
  • We summarize.
  • We fail at transitions.

And a lot of those negative tendencies can quite easily be fixed when you think about them a bit more and learn to recognize them.

Scenes are a bit like connected shots in a movie. I think everyone from Blake Snyder to Robert Olen Butler has said this, but they’re right.

The scene is the basic element of your story. You want to stay in one point of view. Think of it like the camera lens zooming in.

In film, the shot is similar, right? You stay in one uninterrupted image for a shot. Right? Then you hook those shots together. A lot of filmmakers, like novelists, use transitions. They move us from one place to the other.

Butler defines a scene as “unified actions occurring in a single time or place.” Shots becomes scenes become sequences. There is a beginning, middle, and end to all of these. And then you can have long-shots, close-ups, super close-ups, etc.

What we want to do as writers is to use those tools as well (even in first person). We want the extreme close-up of deep POV, but then also to pull back sometimes and see the world and big-picture setting, and then to see that middle distance scene where the character is interacting.

When I write YA and adult genre, my first drafts are almost all deep POV and I have to go back in and add those wider shots, sensory details, setting.

When I write middle grade, my first drafts are almost all middle shots and long shots, and I have to go back and do those extreme close-ups and close ups and that’s okay.

What you want to do as a writer is to know where you tend to lean. Are you a big-picture, abstract, distancer? Are you she-who-is-only-into-close-ups? He who does no transitions and only black-out cuts?

And you want to layer in those elements that you don’t have for effect.

When you don’t do this, you risk one of two things. If you’re a big picture writer with that long-distance point of view, you risk never showing intimacy or immediacy.

If you’re an extreme close-up writer, you risk never showing the reader that bigger world or big picture and sometimes your story can lack setting so it’s all just talking heads and interior monologue.

Don’t be afraid to mix it up.

And don’t be afraid to mix up those transitions, those movements between scenes. Sometimes they can be big cuts and scene breaks and chapter breaks, but sometimes they can be softer and gentler transitional words like –

A week later (or whenever)

At the same time

Afterwards

For two weeks/days/minutes

Meanwhile

At night

The next day

The next night

For a month, I cried into the phone

In the morning

When the sun rose

When the sun set

The following Monday/night/morning

Months passed

Weeks passed

When we got back to the office

When they got back home

As the neared the date site

Then there are the phrases that show us a change in location:

They boarded the train

Down the street

Up on the third floor of the office

Over by the water cooler

Back in my living room

The motorcycle was situated

She ran fast through the dark alley

In the hall of the hospital

Outside on my front lawn

And so on.

Sometimes though, us writers tell our readers TOO much and it ends up sounding like script or stage directions. Those are things that slow the narrative down and just read a bit awkward or stilted.

It would be a sentence like:

When I arrived at the elevator to go up to the office on the fourth floor, I pushed the button to close the door and rode it to the floor.

Or:

            They drove to the restaurant and waited in line for their table and she hummed a little bit.

Instead you just want the transition to get us there into the juicy part of the scene:

Twenty minutes later, they were sitting at their table, playing footsie under the fancy white linen tablecloth when the giant hedgehog with a man bun stormed through the wooden doors.

Places like the bad examples are not really needed because:

  1. It doesn’t really add to the story.
  2. It doesn’t really add to the character.
  3. It’s unnecessary information.

You really only want things in your story that:

  1. Show your character’s inner state/characterization/choices
  2. Move the plot forward.
  3. Set the reader in the moment

The key here is this: Don’t use the same transition every time. Don’t even use the same transition technique every time.

WRITING TIP OF THE POD

Mix it up. Good story is about variety. Do long shots. Close-ups. Location transitions, big cuts, fade-outs, scene transitions.

DOG TIP FOR LIFE

Don’t be boring in life either.

Carrie had the epiphany that she’s tried to fit in with other writers for far too long, clinging to the idea that she can’t be as weird and dorky as she is. No more, my friends. Her witch cackle is coming out.

LINKS WE MENTION IN OUR RANDOM THOUGHTS

Angel shots.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/bartender-explains-what-angel-shot-24605557

Nudist cruise.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/couples-anniversary-dinner-interrupted-nudist-24612029

Weird image on the CCTV.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/weird-news/mum-calls-priest-bless-home-24611677

SHOUT OUT!

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. 

Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.

And we have a new podcast, LOVING THE STRANGE, which we stream live on Carrie’s Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn on Fridays. Her Facebook and Twitter handles are all carriejonesbooks or carriejonesbook.

Here’s the link.

How many types of scenes are there?

Stories aren’t always about hitting each prescribed beat. Stories are about characters making choices.

I’ve been talking about scenes a bit this week and I’m keeping up the scene theme today.

Mike Nichols had thoughts about scenes.

Mike Nichols (a famous movie guy) believes there are three main types of scenes and his scene types are all about what the conflict and choices are in the scene.

Fight – You have to use strength or endurance or willpower to get what you want.

Negotiation – You are being logical and everyone is working together to figure something out. It’s like Scooby Doo when the gang tries to figure something out.

Seduction – You are manipulating someone else to get what you want.

Rachel Poli among others says there are eight.

Hers read a bit more like plot points or story beats. And honestly, I worry about the idea of an ‘exposition’ scene because that usually slows down the plot and narrative, but here you go.

Introduction – Shows character/back ground

Exposition and preparation – Information is given to the character. She says this is where the conflict is scene, but I’d argue that you need your conflict to be seen in every scene.

Transition – “The character are on the move.”

Investigation – It’s an investigation.

Revelation – Things are revealed! Realizations are had.

Escape and Pursuit – Your characters rescue someone, they run away from someone, they run after someone.

Aftermath – This is usually after a big scene. It’s basically a reaction beat.

Resolution – The finale.

The Script Lab presents 17 types of scenes. We’re quoting them here.


1. Setting
 – Where are we?

2. Atmosphere/Mood – What is it like there?

3. Introduction – Who is it we are dealing with here?

4. Exposition – Necessary information. Quick and Clever.

5. Transition – getting from one place to another. Fast.

6. Preparation – What will it take to prepare for the task at hand?

7. Aftermath – How does the character feel about what just happened?

8. Investigation – Gathering information.

9. Revelation – The reader/audience finds out something important.

10. Recognition – The character finds out something important.

11. The Gift – Using a prop with emotional investment and turning it into a weapon, emotional or otherwise.

12. Escape – The character is trying to get away, avoid, or hide.

13. Pursuit – The character is trying to follow, capture, or secure.

14. Seduction – Someone must convince someone else.

15. Opposites – Two characters from seemingly opposite poles are forced together.

16. Reversal of Expectations – A character expects a certain, very clear outcome, but another character surprises him, influencing him to reverse his intention and do something else – practically the opposite of what he planned to do.

17. Unexpected Visitor – Someone unexpected shows up. Problems arise.

Why So Many Different Numbers? Three? Seventeen? That’s a big difference.

Well, people like to have original ideas and claim knowledge as exact. But also because they are looking at slightly different things.

You’ll notice that Nichols’s scenes descriptions really are different. They are about conflict and choice and not about story beats. And I like that.

Stories aren’t always about hitting each prescribed beat. Stories are about characters making choices. If you read those other scene lists they can be helpful in structuring your story and making sure you hit certain beats, but they aren’t about the core of your character’s transformation.

Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story, says,

“A story is about how the things that happen affect someone in pursuit of a difficult goal, and how that person changes internally as a result.”

Timothy Hallinan writes,

“For me, a scene is a unit of story in which something changes. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and at the end something is different than it was at the beginning. It may be a character or a situation, or just our understanding of a character or a situation, but whatever it is, it’s changed when the scene is over.”

What do you think? How do you describe a scene?

Resources

What’s a Scene (And What’s A Chapter?), Timothy Hallinanhttps://rachelpoli.com/2018/07/11/8-types-of-scenes/embed/#?secret=a6jGSYAmSm

https://thescriptlab.com/screenwriting/structure/the-scene/16-types-of-scenes/https://www.ninetydegreesmedia.com/how-to-write-a-scene-in-a-novel/#:~:text=A%20scene%20is%20a%20piece,these%20categories%20it%20falls%20into

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

Fight, Negotiate, Sex – The three main types of scenes.

So, a lot of people think that there are three main types of scenes:

  1. Fight scenes
  2. Negotiation scenes
  3. Sexy sexiness scenes

And the important part of every scene is conflict. That’s because when conflict happens, the character is forced to do something.

Readers want to watch characters do things, right?

Except for fans of Waiting for Godot, but to be fair the characters are waiting. That’s an action.

Sorry! Tangent.

What us writers have to do is make the conflict matter.

For the conflict to matter it has to be about your character wanting something so damn badly, but they aren’t getting it in a way that’s easy.

The biggest, strongest desire is when our character’s want makes them suffer.

Your character arguing about how to hard boil eggs wouldn’t be a meaningful conflict UNLESS it’s somehow connected to her biggest needs and wants and yearnings.

Your character arguing about how to hard boil eggs might be a meaningful conflict IF he has been on the perfect hardboiled egg quest because it’s the only thing he remembers about his dad – his perfect eggs. Or something.

What meaningful conflict does is that it forces the character to do something, to act, to make a choice.  The type of conflict relates to that choice in the scene.

FIGHT SCENE

This is usually about willpower or strength or determination. You will by beating up your opponent or by dealing with something for a long time, enduring it.

Think Atlas holding up the world.

Think about Captain America being beaten up by the Winter Soldier and he keeps getting up.

That’s a fight scene.

SEXY SCENES

I could probably call this a seduction scene, but I’m not terribly mature.

In these scenes you have one character (or multiple ones) manipulating another character’s desires. It might not always be about the sex.

Darth Vader’s big scene where he tries to get Luke to join him, be part of the dark side, stop fighting. He gives him the possibility to be important and a place to belong.

NEGOTIATE ME SCENES

These are scenes that are a push and pull between solutions. It’s about compromise. It’s about logic. It’s very Ravenclaw.

It’s whenever a gangster convinces people to do something.

Negotiation scenes are all about that logical outcome. And at the end of it, everyone goes, “Ah. That makes sense. Of course, we’ll do it that way.”

Each type of scene requires different responses about the character and tells us different things. I think you should lean into these earlier scenes with the men being either fight or manipulation.

Mike Nichols, this ancient director, really loved to talk about those three types of scenes. He was pretty adamant about them being the only types of scenes that there are and he would always say, “When in doubt, seduce.”

Actually, I think his partner, Elaine May might have said that.

But the truth is that you can have a scene be more than one thing at a time. That intricacy makes them pretty beautiful and so much more poignant. Whenever you can add the character enduring (Fight) to a negotiation, it’s a better scene. Because it’s layered.

Other screenwriters and playwrights (like Pete Peterson) have taken this from Nichols and talked about it on podcasts all over the place. One interesting and possibly helpful insight on this is by Jonathan Rogers of THE HABIT after an interview with Pete Peterson.

He wrote:

To frame every fictional conversation as a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation is to foreground desire. And desire is the engine of storytelling. What do your characters want? There may be other questions at stake in the stories you tell, but that question is ALWAYS in play. It is an unavoidable fact that writers always need to communicate information; sometimes they communicate that information in dialogue. But characters carry on conversations in order to get what they want. If we use dialogue merely to convey information and neglect the interplay of characters’ desires, that dialogue will almost surely be flat, uninteresting, and less than believable.

This may be another way of saying the same thing, but dialogue is something that characters DO to each other. Fighting, seducing, and negotiating are actions, not merely an exchange of information or opinions. And, by the way, in the process of fighting, seducing, and negotiating, your characters will provide information and express opinions that your reader will find most helpful. The point here is not that characters can only fight, seduce, or negotiate, but that whatever else is happening, one of those three things has to be happening.

In real life, not every conversation is a fight, a seduction, or a negotiation. Sometimes people really are just providing information or expressing an opinion. Or talking baby-talk to a baby or asking for directions or ordering French fries. But not everything in real life is raw material for a story. I’m reminded of Steve Martin’s exasperated reminder to John Candy in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles: “Not everything is an anecdote, you know.” We spend a third of our lives sleeping. I don’t care how realistic your fiction purports to be; it would be a mistake to devote a third of your word-count to people sleeping.

LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

How To Write a Memorable Scene

The Scene

It’s this element of structure for the story. We all write them, but sometimes it seems like this overlooked aspect of our stories. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not as elemental as the word or punctuation. It’s not as long and sexy as a chapter. It’s not as easily diagramed as a sentence, right?

But it’s so important.

There’s an old book by Raymond Obstfeld called Crafting Scenes and in its first pages he has a chapter called “What a Scene Is and Isn’t.” In it, he quotes the actress Rosalind Russell who was asked what made a movie great.

She answered, “Moments.”

And Obstfeld compared that thought about movies to our thoughts about scenes. He writes, “The more ‘moments’ a work has, the more powerful it is. Think of each memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat.”

And then there is the corollary, “The fewer memorable scenes there are, the quicker that work sinks to the depths of mediocrity.”

So What’s A Scene and How Do You Make It Memorable?

That’s the obvious question, right? A scene is usually action that happens in one setting. But it’s not always. It’s about focus. It can be ten pages or one.

Obstfeld says that a scene does the following:

            Gives reader plot-forwarding information

            Reveals character conflict

            Highlights a character by showing action or a trait

            Creates suspense.

And a memorable scene? What is that?

It’s unexpected.

What does a scene have to have?

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

And the beginning? It’s like a blind date, he says. You have to tell the reader what’s going on and not just expect her to know. It has to hook the reader in, pulling her into its clutches so she wants to keep reading.


LET’S HANG OUT!

HEY! DO YOU WANT TO SPEND MORE TIME TOGETHER?

MAYBE TAKE A COURSE, CHILL ON SOCIAL MEDIA, BUY ART OR A BOOK, OR LISTEN TO OUR PODCAST?

JUST CLICK ON THIS LINK AND FIND OUT HOW WE CAN INTERACT MORE.


HELP US AND DO AN AWESOME GOOD DEED

Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast and our new LOVING THE STRANGE podcast.

We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. 


Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

Thanks so much for being one of the 261,000 downloads if you’ve given us a listen!

One of our newest LOVING THE STRANGE podcasts is about the strange and adorably weird things people say?

And one of our newest DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE episode is about fear setting and how being swallowed by a whale is bad ass.


And Carrie has new books out! Yay!

You can order now! It’s an adult mystery/thriller that takes place in Bar Harbor, Maine. Read an excerpt here!

best thrillers The People Who Kill
The people who kill

It’s my book! It came out June 1! Boo-yah! Another one comes out July 1.

And that one is called  THOSE WHO SURVIVED, which is the first book in the the DUDE GOODFEATHER series.  I hope you’ll read it, like it, and buy it!

The Dude Goodfeather Series - YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones
The Dude Goodfeather Series – YA mystery by NYT bestseller Carrie Jones

TO TELL US YOUR BRAVE STORY JUST EMAIL BELOW.

FREE BOOK? YES! I AM SERIOUS.

Click here to subscribe to my weekly newsletter and get a free pdf of my book!

Carrie Jones Books is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com

Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene

The Scene

It’s this element of structure for the story. We all write them, but sometimes it seems like this overlooked aspect of our stories. I’m not sure why this is. It’s not as elemental as the word or punctuation. It’s not as long and sexy as a chapter. It’s not as easily diagramed as a sentence, right?

But it’s so important.

There’s an old book by Raymond Obstfeld called Crafting Scenes and in its first pages he has a chapter called “What a Scene Is and Isn’t.” In it, he quotes the actress Rosalind Russell who was asked what made a movie great.

She answered, “Moments.”

And Obstfeld compared that thought about movies to our thoughts about scenes. He wrote, “The more ‘moments’ a work has, the more powerful it is. Think of each memorable scene as an inner tube designed to keep the larger work afloat.”

And then there is the corollary, “The fewer memorable scenes there are, the quicker that work sinks to the depths of mediocrity.”

So What’s A Scene and How Do You Make It Memorable?

That’s the obvious question, right? A scene is usually action that happens in one setting. But it’s not always. It’s about focus. It can be ten pages or one.

Obstfeld says that a scene does the following:

            Gives reader plot-forwarding information

            Reveals character conflict

            Highlights a character by showing action or a trait

            Creates suspense.

And a memorable scene? What is that?

It’s unexpected.

What does a scene have to have?

A beginning, a middle, and an end.

And the beginning? It’s like a blind date, he says. You have to tell the reader what’s going on and not just expect her to know. It has to hook the reader in, pulling her into its clutches so she wants to keep reading.

So, authors, look at those scenes. Are you hooking people in? Do they want to keep on that journey with you?

And people, look at the scene you’re at in your life. Are you into it? Is it at a beginning place? Are you still hooked into what you’re doing, who you are? Do you want to stay this way? Are you good?

I hope you’re good, but if you aren’t? Be brave. Make changes. Think about who you want to be and what you want the scenes in your life to be like. You can do this.

Brave Thing I’m Doing

Pretty soon, I’m going to have a Teachable class all about the scene. It’s going to be pretty cheap and hopefully you’ll sign up and like it.

Continue reading “Writing Talk Wednesday: The Scene”

Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah

Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Dogs Are Smarter Than People: Writing Life, Marriage and Motivation
Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah
/
The Scene

To read the text, you’ll want to click on the box where it says “The Scene.”

Writing Tip of the Pod

Think about what kind of scene you’re building in your story. Do you have too many character or theme scenes in a row?


Dog Tip for Life

Think about your life. Do you have too many plot scenes going on? Is it all drama? Is there some theme in there too?


SHOUT OUT

The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Night Owl” by Broke For Free.


DOG INSPIRATION

Every weekday, our dogs have inspirational or motivating tweets on Carrie’s Twitter. Go check it out and be her Twitter friend.

Continue reading “Ghost Reaper Hot Sauce Fatal Errors and Scenes Heck Yeah”