A novel is more than a story. It is about the way a character interacts with things around them. I remember when I was high school I was taught there are three themes in literature:
- Man vs. Man
- Man vs. Nature
- Man vs. Self
I am not sure if they’ve revised that to include Man vs. Technology yet [or zombies], but I would think that is coming soon.
The background—or scene—is critical to building a story. Likewise each individual scene of the story [separate from background] needs to have a purpose and build the book. For that reason I’m going to share a few things I do to build both kinds of scenes—background and story scene. I am listing them here. If you have questions on one of the points
Building the Background Scene
Your book will be REALLY boring if you try to tell me every detail of every place your character goes in the book. Also, it will slow your story down unnecessarily. Instead the key to building your background in to your story is to determine the key elements that are relevant now or will be later in the story. I have a 50 gallon fish tank in my living room. It is something I wanted for a very long time and found at a garage sale for $40 about 3 years ago. When I was a kid my step-mom had a large fish tank like this and I found the fish relaxing. I didn’t think I’d be able to afford a tank like that ever. If I were a character in your book you could develop me by sharing the story of the fish tank.
Maybe it is dark and I’m walking through my house and suddenly notice the humming, gurgling sound of the bubbler and filter have stopped and that is the first thing to alert me that the prowler has cut the power to my house?
Or if it was a more emotional book it could be the tank takes on a particularly significant role to the character throughout the book. In that case the story may circle back to it at various stages and the tank could mean different things to the character at different times indicating a change in that person.
Or maybe you don’t want a focal object, instead you want to have different things in the scenes evoke images. In that case it isn’t practical to talk about everything, instead you want to key up on the things that will do the best job of creating that emotion that will engage the reader.
Creating a Scene that moves the story forward
That leads us to the next point which is creating a scene that will move the story forward. I like to outline my books by writing the scene number [ex: Chapter 2 Scene 4 would be noted as Ch 2.4 in my outline]. I write the POV character, a 2-4 sentence description of what happens in that scene and how that impacts the plot or character. I think this is the most important part because it is the impact of the scene on the plot or character that will determine its relevance.
That means the key to creating scenes that move the story forward is to ask that question: How does this impact the character and/or the plot? If you cannot explain what it does then maybe you don’t need that scene? It is at least worth considering. You can leave it in your outline in case a plot twist later makes it more relevant, but the scene would have a question mark next to it on my outline.
Do you still have questions on this topic? Send them to me using the contact page on my website.
I have recently released my first novel coauthored with Kevin Beringer. I am offering the first 4 chapters free as a download. You can download this for yourself or to pass along to others by clicking here . If you’d like to feature this book on your blog or website, contact me and I will provide you with a link for your readers to download free. And if you’d like to be an ambassador who distributes printed versions of the first 4 chapters, bookmarks, or other promotional material, contact me through my website. This link allows you to download the book without registering in any way. If you love it and want to order it, you can contact me or use the ordering information at the end of the sample.
In the month of December I will answer questions on writing, publishing, being a writer, self-publishing vs. traditional….pretty much any question you have. Email them to me through my website [by clicking this link]. I look forward to your questions and feel free to email a few. I will answer as many as I have time for. I need all questions by November 25, 2014 if they will make it on the blog.