Crafting Fiction: Understanding How Scenes In Novels Are Constructed - Part 3

Posted at 01:44am on 5th March 2009

Earlier in the week, I posted some articles about ACTION scenes. We looked at the necessity for both emotion and conflict in a novel and stressed that your reader will want, and expect, to be engaged at an emotional level. That means that they will want to live the life of your main character – as if it were their own!

I illustrated the way to craft a scene, using a well-known parable from the Bible to make the point. In the third part of this series on learning creative writing in respect of crafting the scenes in a novel, we’re going to look at Sequels or REACTION scenes. And to do so, I’m going to continue the story I began.

THE STORY SO FAR – ILLUSTRATING GOAL, CONFLICT & DISASTER

“There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
“Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living.
“After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need.
"

We finished by saying that on the cliff-hanger of wondering what on earth will befall this boy, YOU END YOUR SCENE!

At this point in your novel, what you cannot and must not do is to construct another scene with the same POV character. You may, however, well switch Point Of View (POV) to another character and another storyline to keep your reader in suspense for a little longer. But you will need to follow that with a return to the original POV and his REACTION sequel. So when we’ve taken a look at what constitutes a REACTION scene, let’s do just that. The construction of the sequel is:

REACTION SCENE

  1. Reaction
  2. Dilemma
  3. Decision

REACTION:

“So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs.”

This is where you show your POV character in torment. This young man, whose overall goal (the Goal of the entire story) is to live an independent life, has found himself destitute as a result of his own folly. He’s already shown himself to be impetuous. Make sure he continues to react in character. So, still intent upon being autonomous, and free from his father’s authority, he’s going to go and get a job, isn’t he? Better that than give in, he thinks. He’s blowed if he’s going to go crawling home cap in hand. Too much pride at stake! Too much loss of face.

DILEMMA:

But horror of horrors, the job he so prizes as a means of being his own master (irony!) is among the pig herds. As a Jew, this is not only the ultimate indignity; a pig is an animal which is ritually and spiritually perceived as ‘unclean’ by his race and creed! Not only that, he’s still starving! You can feel the stomach-cramping nausea of his anguish . . .

“He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.”

DECISION:

The fact is that he’s made a bad choice. But all is not lost. When he’s worked it all out in his mind, he can come to his senses and realise that returning home may be the best option open to him. Not only that, he’s beginning to feel a little ashamed. A lot ashamed, in fact!

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father."

AND LEAVING YOUR READER ON THIS CLIFF-HANGER – WILL HE BE WELCOMED OR REJECTED? – YOU FINISH THE SCENE.

Quotation from: Luke 15: 11-24 NIV

NEXT TIME: In your next scene, your POV character will have the decision to return home as his next Scene Goal. See you later . . .

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