So, I finished my “outline” of T.J.’s Story (such as it is), and guess what? Just because I list things like “listens to Sam’s message on the answering machine” in chapter 1 or “visits Gram in the nursing home” in chapter 3 or “Sam wonders why T.J. calls home so much” in chapter 14 doesn’t mean these are actual SCENES! So what are they if they aren’t “scenes?” What IS a scene, anyway? I decided to reread Jack Bickham’s Scene and Structure to find out.
In case you’re interested, a scene (according to Bickham) is “a segment of story action, written moment-by-moment, without summary, presented onstage in the story ‘now.’ It is NOT something that goes on inside a character’s head; it is physical.”
Bickham goes on to say that a scene needs to have a statement of goal, there needs to be some introduction and development of conflict, and then you can’t allow your main character to attain his/her scene goal. He/she must leave the scene in worse shape than he/she was in when he/she began the scene.
So, what’s actually going on in T.J.’s Story? Forget what’s going on inside her head…what’s happening on stage in the here and now? I decided to take Bickham’s advice and list each of my scenes on a note card. Each note card lists the scene goal, who is in conflict with T.J., where the conflict is occurring, the twists/turns that occur during the scene and finally the “disaster” at the end of the scene. (I have to admit there aren’t as many of these cards as there should be…)
The first half of the book is okay. In fact, this little exercise has shown me the first half of the book is actually better than I thought it was in terms of scene development. I do have actual scenes…with goals, twists/turns and disasters. Things are happening. And the scenes are even strung together with cause and effect (yes, I do actually know something about writing a novel). But it all sort of falls apart halfway through the book. I don’t have scenes anymore halfway through…
The question is why not???