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  1. #11
    Cat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan N. View Post
    In a reductionist sense, I suppose it is simple. But when the entire plot of a novel is mapped out using this technique, it's anything but simple.
    No more so than mapping out the plot of an entire novel any other way.

    And Bickham is clear that it's not some inflexible formula.

    At the heart of Scene and Structure is the idea that a scene should have a scene question near the beginning and it's answer near the end. If you think about that, it's just common sense, and looking back over a scene with that idea in mind is a good safety check against aimless scenes of the sort that make readers bored and impatient.

    The three possible answers to a scene question are "yes", "no", and "no and further more", in ascending order of tension creation. I suppose there are further variations like "sort of" and "if he manages to do something else" but let's stay focused for the sake of argument. Bickham advises saving "yes" for the very last scene. I'm not sure if I agree with that or not - perhaps there is justification for points of repose at certain points in a plot but they do lessen dramatic tension.

    In other words, what does your MC want in a scene and how successful is he at getting it? If that is not clear, the scene is aimless. If you want to write aimless scenes, fine, but that doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. That's what plot is when you connect these scenes and shape their trajectory to answer a story question.

    The remaining part of the question, at the scene level, is how the MC responds and reacts to these events. What would you think of a story where the MC doesn't? Would you want to read it?

    Bickham's way of looking at story construction is natural and, if you think about it, simple.

    Personally, I use something like his template, mostly, to check scenes in revision. I found his book a real eye opener, and I felt that my writing took a big step forward when I incorporated his advice, but now, it's pretty much habit.



  2. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat View Post
    No more so than mapping out the plot of an entire novel any other way.
    What others way are there to map out a novel, aside from "badly" or "not at all"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Cat View Post
    And Bickham is clear that it's not some inflexible formula.
    I haven't actually read the book, but I suppose this is also common sense. The story would never end if every scene ended in disaster. The final scene, at the very least, must break from the formula.

    To me, the strength of the scene/sequel idea is the formalisation, particularly for newbies. It forces the writer to focus on the dramatic arc of the scene and the characters' motivations and reactions to events.

    As you say, experienced writers probably need it far less because they do it automatically.

  3. #13
    Cat
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    After teaching the basic pattern, he goes into variations, enough so that you get the idea that he's teaching principles which you can then play with to your heart's content. Obviously, if the disaster is staring down the barrel of a gun, it would be a strange MC who underwent a full-blown sequel, for example.

    When I was a newbie, this book was ver helpful, along with a few other books in that Writers' Digest series: Plot and Beginnings, Middles and Ends.

    A little later on, Lawrence Block and Sol Stein's books were real eye openers.

    Now it's Donald Maass.

  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat View Post
    After teaching the basic pattern, he goes into variations, enough so that you get the idea that he's teaching principles which you can then play with to your heart's content. Obviously, if the disaster is staring down the barrel of a gun, it would be a strange MC who underwent a full-blown sequel, for example.

    When I was a newbie, this book was ver helpful, along with a few other books in that Writers' Digest series: Plot and Beginnings, Middles and Ends.
    Yeah, I figured that part out by myself when some sequels in my plot just didn't seem compelling enough to warrant floor space.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cat View Post
    A little later on, Lawrence Block and Sol Stein's books were real eye openers.

    Now it's Donald Maass.
    Thanks for the info. There's a thread for book suggestions here. That would be a good place to mention those books if you have the time, Cat.

    http://www.writers.net/forum/showthr...-About-Writing

  5. #15
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    Nathan, I follow the NaNoWriMo philosophy of mapping out a novel: "Why bother?" I know where I'm starting and where I want to end, and that's all I know or need at the start. I let the story work itself out, day by day, and follow my inspirations as they come, including incorporating any plot ninjas who happen to wander into my story along the way.

    Tim Powers is a very good writer and a real sweetheart of a person. He also plots out every one of his novels ahead of time then writes strictly to the outline. His stories are well thought out and interesting, but some people find that his characters never really come alive, and his method of writing may be a factor in that. Use an outline, or whatever other tools you need, Nathan, but don't ever let them control your writing; leave at least a little room for spur of the moment ideas.

  6. #16
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    The "Why bother?" technique leads to a lot of staring at a blank computer screen for me.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nathan N. View Post
    The "Why bother?" technique leads to a lot of staring at a blank computer screen for me.
    That's probably a good bottom line for this thread. Writers do it differently. As long as they reach a conclusion that satisfies them using a process that satisfies them, that's good enough.

  8. #18
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    Then do what I do, Nathan: go for a walk. You'd be surprised how many plot twists and new directions I've come up with while getting some fresh air and exercise.

  9. #19
    Cat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Zeff View Post
    Then do what I do, Nathan: go for a walk. You'd be surprised how many plot twists and new directions I've come up with while getting some fresh air and exercise.
    I'm a big fan of that myself.

    Stephen King liked to go for long walks to find inspiration . . . but look what happened to him.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cat View Post
    I'm a big fan of that myself.

    Stephen King liked to go for long walks to find inspiration . . . but look what happened to him.
    It bothered me how King dangled the story of his accident in front of the reader like a carrot in his ON WRITING WELL book.

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