Monday, July 24, 2006

Ending scenes

Starting a new WIP after years of mud-wrestling an old one is a very educational process. I highly recommend it as an exercise if you're stuck, even if you only write a few chapters. Don't, don't, don't develop a habit of always starting new things - that isn't the way to stardom, my friend! - but you just might find that the change in prespective will highlight strengths and weaknesses that you were missing while you were busy pulling out your hair. You were learning and progressing in your craft while you were on that treadmill, after all - because now you'll recognize problems as they occur. For instance....

The endings of my scenes are weak. Sometimes they just progress until the business seems to fizzle out, and I'm left with only a few blank lines to signal a change in time and place.

Elizabeth Lyon, in her book A Writer's Guide to Fiction (Perigree, 2004), discusses this. Specifically, she mentions Jack Bickham's list of possible endings for scenes (page 174):
1. discovery that a newly begun task is more complicated than expected
2. learning a disturbing piece of information
3. arriving someplace new
4. meeting someone who will significantly alter his or her (your pov character's) life

Ms. Lyon adds also that there may be a dramatic event that provides a good scene ending.

Of course these things are present in my writing, but I have a tendency to put them at the beginning of a scene: action or event - character response - fizzle. I see that I need to structure scenes this way, instead: character response - action or event. This creates momentum, as opposed to a limping, lurching pace. A resounding smack on the forehead for me. Go figger!

In addition, the first and last sentences need to have punch, impact. I knew that, but I haven't been making an effort to relate one to the other by using language to reveal parallels or contrasts. It makes a very satisfying, round shape when you can pull that off. Another thing to work on!

Now, writers who may be doing me the honor of reading this, please do add your own comments on scene endings!


Renée said...

Starting is lots of fun, but finishing is pretty cool too.

I floundered a lot in the middle. It took me awhile to figure out how to wrap things up. Once I did, the ending started flowing as easily as the beginning (which isn't saying much since the beginning didn't always flow that smoothly ;o)

As for scene endings, the scenes let me know how and when they should end. I don't think too much about it. (Completely unhelpful, I know. Sorry!)

Cindy said...

The middle, don't get me started...(G)

As for being unhelpful, it's the nature of the biz, I think. We can discuss all we like, and it's good to do that, of course, But in the end it's just you and your keyboard.

Susan Adrian said...

Hey, it sounds like you've had some good revelations. Excellent!

I seem to have 2 types of scene endings: cliffhanger (lots of those) and wrap-up. They just seem to end that way on their own.

Cindy said...

Dear Susan:
I can't believe I was missing this. I knew it, but somehow that didn't get across onto the page. Makes me wonder how much of this stuff I'll find.