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LeighMichaels
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Re: Organizing scenes

A scene is a unit of time, place, and point of view. If we shift in time, place, or POV character, we start a new scene.

Jane comes home and interrupts a burglar. If we then show Jane at the police station making a report, it's a new scene. If we switch POVs to see what the burglar's thinking as he runs away, it's a new scene. If we show Jane coming home the next day, feeling fearful, it's a new scene.

All of those scenes could occur within one chapter.

How long should a scene be? It should get the space and time and length that corresponds to its importance and impact. If it's a very important bit of the story, then the scene will probably be longer, and perhaps there will only be one scene in the chapter. If the piece of the story to be told in this scene is smaller, then the scene should be shorter and there might end up being four or five scenes in that chapter.

Hope that helps!
Leigh
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ChristineM
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Re: Bringing Emotion into your writing



LeighMichaels wrote:Anybody want to offer some examples? Books and authors where you really felt the emotion? -- and how the author did that for you?

Happy writing,
Leigh




Sharon Kay Penman does a really great job with emotion. Her mainstream historical, Here Be Dragons has a number of scenes in it that are very charged, but one series of scenes in particular is so good that I've cracked the binding of my copy because I occasionally open it up to read for fun. Joanna, daughter of King John has been married to Llewelyn, prince of Gwynedd (I think that's who it's spelled) but they've never consummated the relationship (She's also 15 and he's 32.) She comes returns from a visit to her father's court ready to consummate, bursts into his bedchamber first thing in the morning and finds his mistress getting dressed. Joanna orders Llewelyn's bed dragged into the courtyard and burned. Then she realizes that she could have just destroyed any chance of a happy marriage. Llewelyn thinks it's hysterical because he didn't realize she had that kind of spirit.

Penman showed Joanna as an adolescent subject to sudden emotional change and outbursts when she finds the mistress and has the bed burned, but she does it through the lens of Joanna being royalty. She's very imperious and in control on the outside while falling appart on the inside. Her maid is running around in terror making for a good foil and a demonstration of what Joanna feels like. Especially when Llewelyn shows up and starts beating on the door.

She showed Llewelyn and his cronies finding out about the burned bed with great humor by letting them be guys. The man who delivered the news did that cruel guy humor thing and then they laughed until they cried. We also got to see Llewelyn starting to appreciate this woman/child he's been saddled with as part of the peace treaty with England. And it helped difuse the tension of what Joanna was going through.

And in all this she somehow managed to explain the differences between English and Welsh Medieval law without sounding like a barrister.
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dixielandgrl
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Re: Bringing Emotion into your writing

My answer to authors showing emotion is Jane Eyre. Bronte did something I loved. She did narrate heavily, but there was an element in her story where the outsiders felt for the main characters. She elicits pity for Rochester, and Later for Jane through other characters. I have lost my copy, but the housekeeper is an example.

When Jane is being led into a marriage that is doomed, the housekeeper knows the story. We see her caution her that all that glitters is not gold. We hear her caring narrative of Mr Rochester's family and how he was used badly, even though we don't know how.

Rochester is also a gruff, almost uncaring man, yet through Adele's love for him, we see a man who manages to obtain and keep the love of a child.

It's my favorite way of showing character or being shown a character. I trust the observations of the outsiders more. People tend to believe what they will of themselves. Sometimes we are wrong, but others see you and report you plainly.
"If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be:" Thomas Campion
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Vicky
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Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Organizing scenes

Leigh Michaels wrote:
How long should a scene be? It should get the
space and time and length that corresponds to its
importance and impact.
--------------------------------------------------



Thanks, Leigh. It helps a lot but raises another question. How do I know what parts of a novel are going to be more important than others? What parts to emphasize in larger scenes?

Thank-you, Vicky
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LeighMichaels
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Re: How long are scenes?

How long should a scene be? This is a good time to reread some books you've enjoyed, and make a few notes -- how long is each scene, and what does it accomplish for the story. You'll usually find that the more important the events, the more weight they're given in the story -- in pages and in intensity.

As for which scenes in your story need that extra emphasis -- that becomes a sort of gut reaction, with experience. And it helps to have a first reader who will tell you if the story seems to drag, or if it seems to speed by too quickly. Then you'll know if you've given more (or less) space to the events than the reader needed them to have in order to follow the storyline.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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Ch-Janet
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Outlining

Leigh, do you outline your stories before you begin writing or do you have a very general idea of where you are going and start from there?
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cariann92
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

Leigh,

I am working on my wip, a critique partner tells me I need italics for the thoughts of the heroine to distinguish them from the narrator.

'Carol had planned to go to Susie's house to ride in the limousine
with Anne Quenten. But, she had worked overtime and could not get
there in time. Disappointed that she had missed her chance to ride
in a limousine, she had called Anne for directions to the country club.
She started driving the fifty miles to Susie's hometown. What could
go wrong?

The directions were on the passenger seat. She had
written them down very carefully even repeating them back to Anne.
It should have been a slam dunk. But for someone with no sense of
direction, written directions were no guarantee of arrival anytime in
the near future.

Oh cripes, even in her small hometown of Lewisville, she was known
for having to return home from one place before going somewhere else.'

She said that some of this is Carol's thoughts and I should use italics.

What do you think? I know we had this discussion before in one of your classes. But could you help again. Thanks.

Cariann
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dixielandgrl
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

I don't know if this is any help at all, but I have been determining what is a direct thought and an indirect one.

ex. "I can't believe she did that!" susie thought.

v.

ex. Susie supposed it would be unbelievable that her mother could have done such a thing.

The first I call direct and the second indirect. I use italics whenever she is having a mind monologue. So a direct thought. If I am wrong, someone please correct me before I start chapter 5!!!
"If all would lead their lives in love like me,
Then bloody swords and armor should not be:" Thomas Campion
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Outlining

Every author works a little differently, and there's no right and wrong way to go about writing a book. It does seem to me that writing is like taking a cross-country trip -- it makes sense to look at a map and chart out a basic course, at least, so if you wander off the main road once in a while to see the local sights, you at least are still headed in the right direction! But beyond that, whether you follow the map religiously or take alternate routes, you'll still get to the destination.

My method is pretty much seat of the pants. When I start writing, I know who the main characters are and what their big secrets are (usually). I know what the immediate problem is that brings them together and makes them stay together long enough to discover they're in love. I know what the long-term problem is -- that internal conflict which threatens to keep them from achieving a happy ending. I know what the black moment is, and what the happy ending is (in general terms, at least; do they settle down in his city apartment or her farmhouse in the country?) But that's about it -- the rest happens as I write.

I don't recommend that method because it can (and has) led me astray, and sometimes I write sections that don't go anywhere and have to back up and take another run at it. But it's the way that works for me. If I plot too much, then I lose the excitement of watching things happen unexpectedly, and writing becomes dull and boring work.

Other authors find security in knowing exactly what happens in what order, and that makes it easier for them to write. It's just a difference between people.

I suggest you try several methods, and then stop and think about what's working best for you. If you can't wait to get back to your story, if you're excited about it and the pages are piling up as fast as is reasonable within your schedule, and your first readers are anxious to see more, then you've found a method that works for you.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

Cariann -- Direct thoughts are clearer when they're set aside in italics. They're like dialogue, because a direct thought is exactly what the character is thinking. We set aside dialogue with quotation marks, direct thoughts with italics, so they stand out from the narrative.

Indirect thoughts are a summary of what the character is thinking, so that just gets treated like regular narrative.

The passage you quoted is pretty much all indirect thought (with the possible exception of "oh cripes" -- which is so short that it's not a big deal either way) so you've handled it well.

~~~~
'Carol had planned to go to Susie's house to ride in the limousine
with Anne Quenten. But, she had worked overtime and could not get
there in time. Disappointed that she had missed her chance to ride
in a limousine, she had called Anne for directions to the country club.
She started driving the fifty miles to Susie's hometown. What could
go wrong?

The directions were on the passenger seat. She had
written them down very carefully even repeating them back to Anne.
It should have been a slam dunk. But for someone with no sense of
direction, written directions were no guarantee of arrival anytime in
the near future.

Oh cripes, even in her small hometown of Lewisville, she was known
for having to return home from one place before going somewhere else.'
~~~~~

In this case, where you're summing up a fairly long series of thoughts about a fairly commonplace event, it makes sense to use indirect thoughts; otherwise you'd have a couple of pages of Carol's first person thinking, which might turn the reader off. Alternatively, you could use direct thought to show Carol's personality as she gives a briefer rundown of what's happened. Overall, though, teh indirect thought makes the point, gives the reader the necessary information, but doesn't bog the story down.

A bigger issue, I think, is all the past perfect verbs -- which create a kind of singsong rhythm. Had planned, had worked, had missed, had called -- perhaps there's a way to show these things in a more active way rather than telling the reader about them after the fact.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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LeighMichaels
Posts: 297
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

You're right, Dixie.

Direct thought = exact words = italics

Indirect thought = summary = narrative (no italics)

The examples you used were good ones. There are more on my Classroom on the Web site, under dialogue. (Easiest way to get there: www.leighmichaels.com, then go to Help For Writers which gives you a link to the Classroom site, since that direct link has a sqiggle in it and the BN site doesn't like it!)

Happy writing,
Leigh
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ChristineM
Posts: 260
Registered: ‎12-31-2006
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

I thought that italics were a no no in a MS. This is probably really old information, but I read somewhere that you should only underline.
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Questions for Leigh - use of italics

Some publishers prefer that you underline rather than put thoughts in italics, because the underlining stands out more and it's less likely to be missed in editing.

The rule used to be to underline anything you wanted to end up in italics. This rule is relaxing, however, and now most editors say either underline OR use italics. (Just don't change your mind halfway through.)

Thanks for clarifying, Christine!

Happy writing,
Leigh
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Ch-Janet
Posts: 111
Registered: ‎02-09-2007
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

Leigh, What are your views on POV change within a scene? How-to-write books tend to push the idea that it's best to stick to one POV per scene --- but maybe this advice is a little dated now?

For M&B Romance, as long as it's very clear whose POV we are in, is it okay to change several times within a scene?
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

The standard wisdom for all fiction is still one POV per scene. Romance is one of the few genres which has broken with that tradition, and I think it's been a change for the worse. While there are a few scenes where including both POVs increases the impact of the story, in most cases the multiple POV lowers the suspense level, increases the reader's distance from the characters, and makes it harder to keep the reader involved in the story.

Lowering the suspense level is a big problem with multiple POV. When we know what everybody's thinking, it's hard to maintain any mystery, so unless the conflict is extremely strong, multiple POV can reduce conflict in a flash.

Other than that, multiple POV is fine. ;-)

Okay, I'm a purist... and there are authors who skillfully handle multiple POVs within scenes. Unfortunately, most multiple POV isn't done well; it creeps in because the author is careless, instead.

Happy writing,
Leigh
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cariann92
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Re: Questions for Leigh

A while back, I read a question about On September Hill. I went off to school and during plan, I wrote an answer on my alphasmart. When I got home, I couldn't find the section about that book. It is hard to find things. Could you tell me what the topic is for this?

Cariann
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LeighMichaels
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On September Hill

Cariann, that thread is under "Secondary Characters: Character Study." I agree it's a bit hard to find our way around the site sometimes -- Jessica knows and is passing the word on to the designers to see if they can add some extra help in navigation.

Best,
Leigh
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ChristineM
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

I always hated the POV flopping in Romances. It seemed amaturish to me. Even when it's skillfully done it felt like they author wasn't a "real" professional. But then I'm probably a purist too.
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cariann92
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

I am in the middle of a scene, retyping something I only have on a printout. Of course you edit when you retype, right.

I am ready for a paragraph, reading it, I realize that I have switched to his POV for that paragraph. The stuff in there - in his POV - is important. How to leave it in her POV and still get his thoughts in there.
***
The conversation continued just that way. He brought up that there had been a fraternity party when she was a sophomore. She had drunk too much spiked punch. She only nodded at this information. When he said that she had gone upstairs, she shook her head. He changed it to 'ended up upstairs' and she nodded. He finally got to the important question. "You slept with Ben?" She shook her head violently and turned to the window again. "You had sex with Ben?" Again she shook her head. "It wasn't consensual?" She finally nodded and looked at him.

**** Then to his POV
By this time he had driven out of town. They were halfway to the next town twenty miles away, still on the expressway. He knew there was a small restaurant where they could stop nearby. He slowed down looking for the next exit ramp. He wanted to stop, to pull over so badly. His arms were aching to hold her, to comfort her, to let her know he knew the truth, her truth. He soon exited and went straight to the restaurant's parking lot. He turned off the ignition and turned toward her. He touched her shoulder. She flinched as he turned her around to face him. He didn't want her to push him away, but he suspected that she couldn't help it.

Then back to her POV

"What else did he say?" she asked. "Did Ben tell you the real truth? Did you believe what he said?" She frantically waited for his reply.

____
This was written back in 2003, I didn't edit this part, just wrote what was on the printout. I like that he wants to hold her, etc., but I know I can't have the POV jump back and forth.

Any suggestions?

Cariann
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LeighMichaels
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Re: Questions for Leigh - POV switches

Hi, Cariann --

So much of this section is telling, not showing. For instance --

He brought up that there had been a fraternity party when she was a sophomore. She had drunk too much spiked punch. She only nodded at this information. When he said that she had gone upstairs, she shook her head. He changed it to 'ended up upstairs' and she nodded.

If you were to rewrite this as dialogue, so the reader is right there watching their reactions and listening to their words all the way through, rather than being told about it, then his feelings will come through in his tone of voice and his actions, without you needing to go into his POV.

So if you start out with something like,


"Remember that fraternity party when you were a sophomore? The one where (yada)?"

"Yeah," she said shortly. "I remember it."

"You drank too much spiked punch."

"I wouldn't have, if I'd known it was spiked."

"And you went upstairs."

She gave a small shake of her head. Her neck muscles were too tight to move freely.

"Well, you ended up upstairs," he corrected.

Her tongue felt thick. "It wasn't my idea," she said curtly. -- and so on.

See what I'm doing? Then when you get to the point where he wants to hold her, you can stay in her POV but she can see the caring in his eyes -- it'll convey the point without having to give his thoughts.

The bigger problem here isn't the POV, it's that you're not letting the reader see what's happening, so she can share the feelings. By telling her instead, you're keeping her at a distance from the characters.

Hope this helps!

Leigh
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