Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Best Writing Advice #8: Write Like the Movies!

I remember when I started my writing career a few short years ago. Every time I started a book, the challenge seemed daunting...especially this J.J. McCall series. I'm often told how layered the story is--in a good way--and I smile because I remember wondering how the heck would I get from the beginning to the end? And how do I structure this thing so it tells my story, keeps the reader gripped from beginning to end, and - you know - makes sense and entertains and satisfies?

One of the best pieces of writing advice I ever received (and am still learning to practice), is to write like the movies--or better put--write in scenes on arcs.

Scenes on Arcs?


That's the simple way to think about it--for me, anyway. By breaking the story up into smaller chunks--scenes--the task feels less overwhelming.

We all know that stories (books, movies, or otherwise) are structured with a beginning, middle, and end. There's usually a character introduction and a series of smaller crises (or questions) that build up over time to the big climax (or answer)--POW--and then the resolution leads us to the end.


All's well that ends well...or not.

The path from the beginning to the end is built from scenes. If you watch a lot of movies, as I do, and really look at the structure, you'll notice that each scene has a story arc--almost like little stories within a big story.

The scene begins with the protagonist wanting, desiring...or even needing to experience something. An obstacle of some type presents itself  to him or her and prevents them from getting it (which helps create tension). The scene ends with the protagonist getting what part of what he needs (including the next question) OR hitting a snag or a setback. It's not until the climax scene that the big question is answered.

Of course, if you write very layered stories as I do with my J.J. McCall series, then you will think of your subplots in the same way as you weave them in with the main plot. The idea doesn't change.

Write one scene at a time. The protagonist wants something, something prevents him/her from getting it. They get what they need  and a new question OR they hit a wall and need to work their way out of it.

Let me tell you, breaking down my stories this way has really helped get me through some rough patches. Instead of wondering how I'll get through the WHOLE book, I only have to think about how to get through this scene.

And, if I structure each scene well,  one scene ALWAYS leads me to the next--a path that leads me to a satisfying end.

Piece of cake.

So when you find yourself overwhelmed with trying to get your story written -- Write like the movies and get through your book one scene at a time.

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