Apr 29, 2012

Have you checked your over-arching Scene Structure lately?

by Marsha Ward

This past week I got my writing groove back (now that my taxes are done and finally put away). I've been doing a bit of checking on my manuscript structure before I get back to actual writing.

Even though I'm basically an organic writer, or "pantser," I do know the beginning, some of the middle, and the desired end of my novel. I know who my characters are. I know more or less what their roles are in the story. I know some of the major plot points I want to build around.

I don't always know all of that information when I first put my fingers on the keyboard to write, but by the time I'm this far into the novel (65%+ finished), my ideas have firmed up, and it's time to go back for a check on my actual progress.

One of the ways I do this is to use visual and physical cues, which goes right along with my visual/tactile learning style. It's also a relief from being on the computer all the time.

In the past, I've posted long lists of chapter and scene descriptions on my walls that I could cut and tape back together in the desired chapter/scene order.

This time, I did something a bit different. I added color, one for each scene shown from a different character's viewpoint: pink for Marie Owen, orange for Bill Henry, white for C.G. Thorne, yellow for Rod Owen (Pa), and green for Julia Owen (Ma). If I'd possessed black index cards, I would have used them, too, but I don't know where to buy black index cards. :-)

Back to the subject. First, I printed out each scene description on a small slip of paper. Wait. I have to explain that.

My fabulous writing software, yWriter5 (be sure to explore the entire software inventory when you go over there), lets me print out the descriptions of each scene on "Scene Cards" of a size I specify. It doesn't, however, sort the scenes by POV (POV=point of view), or if it does, I haven't explored the instructions long enough to find that way of doing it.

Therefore, using colored card stock during the printing would have been purposeless, so I merely printed the information on plain white sheets of paper. Then I cut the "scenes cards" into rectangles and affixed them to my colored index cards.

Next, I laid the cards out on the floor:

 The first five chapters show a preponderance of Marie's viewpoint.

This helped me check for two things.

1) Having one card for each scene lets me know what information, event, or plot point I've covered so far.

I have determined that there are gaps in my narrative flow, and I need to fill them in.

2) Since the visual cue of the colored card tells me whose viewpoint is "seeing" the scene, I can also check for character balance.

Yes, it's Marie Owen's story, but there IS a supporting cast of characters, and I need them to do their job effectively, sometimes, out of Marie's sight.

Since I'm seeing an overabundance of pink cards laid out on my floor in the chapters shown above, I know there are other scenes to be written. Maybe. That depends on if material seen only from the POV of other characters is missing. Yes. Yes, it is, so I know I have scenes to write.

However, and this is a big "however," I won't necessarily add a scene for another character just because his or her viewpoint is missing from a chapter. The job of each scene is to advance the story, not to make the colors balance.

So, my title question remains, and I'll restate it: Have you checked the structure of your plot lately?

1 comment:

  1. I look forward to the day when I have a written plot for which I can check the structure! I really like the way you approached this Marsha.
    Thanks for sharing it with us~!


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