1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

In need of help with scenes...

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by ChasingSuns, Jul 12, 2015.

  1. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    337
    107
    43
    So in my current story, I have run into a problem. It's been hard for me to tell what to do with the scenes in the first chapter. Basically, it goes like this...

    Scene 1: Carriage ride, leading to a bandit ambush at the edge of a forest. A short fight ensues. Characters continue through a forest.

    Scene 2: They arrive at a town in the center of the forest. They are greeted by the lord of the land.

    Scene 3: Dinner with the lord.

    The second chapter starts with them heading to the capitol of the kingdom.

    So my problem is that I can't seem to get the dinner scene to happen. The town and the lord are not very important at this point, and even though they will be a bit more important much later, they will still play a relatively small role in the grand scheme of the story. There are things that are revealed about certain characters, but I feel like they can be revealed during the first scene. I'm super stuck.

    Part of my question is, is there an average number of scenes in a chapter? I know that it can vary and depends on what the story needs, but is there a ballpark? I just can't tell if I'm trying to do too much in one chapter.
     
  2. AkamaruGames

    AkamaruGames Sage

    242
    42
    28
    While there is only so much I can say based on what you have told us, I would probably make the first scene a chapter ending with the arrival at the town. Being greeted by the lord and having dinner with him I would make a second chapter. The reason I say this is there is a bit of a location shift from forest to town (even though the town is within the forest) and I imagine the tone is somewhat different as well (going from danger in a forest to meeting people in a town).

    I am not sure what you are asking as far as you can't make the dinner scene happen however. Do you mean you are having trouble coming up with a reason for the scene to exist? Or do you mean that the scene itself is hard to write?
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  3. KC Trae Becker

    KC Trae Becker Troubadour

    144
    64
    28
    I would say it's fine to switch to a new chapter and only have one location and/or scene per chapter. You can also have multiples scenes per chapter, it's your preference. If you're writing for kids, though, short chapters and one local in each seems to be the going wisdom.

    As far as the dinner scene goes, either come up with a good reason to include details for it or reduce it to a sentence or two and move on. You don't need to kill the momentum by including unimportant scenes just because that's what happened next chronologically. Spare the readers and yourself the yawns and gloss over it to get to the good stuff.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    4,517
    1,578
    163
    I would give serious thought as to whether a detailed version of the dinner scene is needed at all.

    In one of my WIP's I was stuck for a long time. The characters were in a tricky situation (guests/prisoners in an anarchic city) but instead of dealing with this situation they kept talking about long ago events. Some of this was necessary...but most wasn't. When I finally realized this, I deleted most of the conversations and moved on.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  5. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,598
    1,517
    163
    I've written a fair amount of books just as you have planned above. The only thing I can say is that as I edit, I've learned to cut most of it out. It might feel like a good scene in which to introduce your reader to a setting and people and their circumstances, but I've come to realize it's part of my process of beginning wheel-spinning. In revision, I almost never open this way, because I find better ways. However, saying that, there isn't a one-size-fits-all way to open a novel and there's no reason a ride in the forest and dinner isn't a great opening, just that mine weren't great. They were lazy, common, and more for me to organize my thoughts and get to know my own characters than anything else.

    If you have a good idea what you plan to do there, consider posting a detailed scene summary for us, maybe we can give more advice then. Unfortunately, with only this brief description, it's hard to say how well it works. I just know from personal experience, that when I've done it, it hasn't been interesting to my crit partners, and so, away those scenes went, to be replaced by more tense, immediate scenes that better introduce characters as well as scenery.

    Most often, what I do is write it as I plan it, and then once I'm finished with the book, I go back and take a detailed inventory of each scene and rate how strong they are. Once I have that, it's easy enough to re-write it stronger, but I can't make that decision right from the beginning. I'm doing a similar thing right now (I mentioned it in a thread, I think one of BW Foster's), where (oh yes, the one titled "How man times do I make the same mistakes") I basically write out everything I want to happen, then I analyze it for strength, and finally, I come up with a better way...then I skip that way, and go for the next idea, which is ultimately better than the others before, and I haven't wasted my time rewriting it twice. A crit partner is a valuable tool for this process, as it allows you to bounce ideas off another person and they can help you brainstorm. So anyways, I had a 17-page prologue I turned into chapter one, and I didn't love it and no one else did, either. I just got done chipping it up like a butcher with a mean streak, and now it's way better, divided into six small parts. One conversation is happening, but between parts of that single conversation, three small scenes play elsewhere, to give reference to the things discussed. It broke up the long conversation and also allowed a reader to see first-hand the things I wanted them to know about, without using only character dialogue.

    I'd say that if this is the first draft, write it how you see it and want it to play out, and if you get stuck on something, use a couple paragraphs of summary. The problem with dinners and such, is that as a writer, it's hard to stop showing erroneous things, like passing the peas, when the reader will only be bored by that action repeated a few times (sipping wine, filling plates, toasting, observing the scents of the dishes or the dishes themselves). So...hope this helps some, but I think dinners are difficult. If you can skip it, I'd probably recommend doing so and using a few summary paragraphs to tell what happened there, without letting yourself get bogged down in details a reader will feel like they're slogging through. Openings need to be gripping.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,081
    1,846
    163
    Without much detail, it's hard to give you solid advice. But here are some of my thoughts. You say the dinner is an important scene. Great. Why are the first two scenes important? Why can't you just start with them arriving at the dinner or the next day as they're leaving for the capital?

    Ask yourself what are you trying to achieve with these three scenes? What information are you trying to convey about the characters, the world, and the plot? Once you have those things. Try designing an interesting scene or scenes that will allow all this information to come out naturally.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  7. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

    621
    182
    43
    I think a dinner scene is a great opportunity to set a bar.

    By that I mean, how will the table manners of the countrymen differ from the table manners of the citizens of the capital? And how do both of those table manners differ from the table manners of the characters? What does that tell us about the characters and the likelihood that they will stand out in a crowd, or blend in with the masses?

    What can we find out from the meal that shows possibly, if any, inequality in distribution of wealth, or some other, similar bone of contention?

    What better place to get gossip than during a meal or after a long night of drinking?

    What better scene to fall in love or fall into a fight? What better scene to initiate a pissing match of wits?

    An old trick in the film industry that I would like to see more of in novels, is the use of slap stick.

    I used to hate slap stick and dismissed it for drivel. But the fact is that it's easy to find funny and it does help to move the scene along.

    Someone falling, someone farting, etc, etc.

    I'm not advising to write a comedy, but even briefs moments of comic relief can help to keep the reader interested.

    I wouldn't avoid a dinner scene, I would embrace it as a challenge.

    If it doesn't work, chop it out in the final edits.
     
  8. stephenspower

    stephenspower Inkling

    486
    166
    43
    I'm with KC: If the dinner scene is unimportant, reduce it too, "They ate dinner with the local lord and the next day continued on." Or don't mention it at all, like the French plantation scene cut from "Apocalypse Now."
     
  9. MineOwnKing

    MineOwnKing Maester

    621
    182
    43
    I always liked that scene. It was chaotic and dreary but it did provide some historical clarity.

    In The Heart of Darkness, Marlow meets with Kurtz's sister at the end.

    I always felt that the French woman, was the film versions replacement for Kurtz's sister.

    The close-ups of her face are haunting but telling.

    The scene does not move the movie along, but I find it compelling and beautiful.

    I wouldn't want to see the movie without it.
     
  10. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    337
    107
    43
    First of all, thanks for all of the input :D To get into more detail, the first scene is important for many reasons. It establishes quite a lot about two of the main characters, and really gives a reader a feel that they are not your average protagonists. The second scene could probably be cut down (it's mostly just setting description now that I'm looking at it again), but I would like to keep it because there is some significance to the town. It doesn't really show until later in the story, but I thought that it would be cool to plant the seed for that early on. As for the dinner scene, it is basically going to be used to explain a bit more about the two main protagonists. They are a couple of sellswords who are part of a legendary school of swordsmanship (think medieval sellswords with a bushido-ish code of honor). I really wanna get this piece of background established in the first chapter. I am starting to think that this information could be worked into the first scene, before the bandit attack.
     
  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,081
    1,846
    163
    From what I'm reading, I think you could fit it all into one scene. If you need to introduce the town, have the fight happen in the town. Everything else IMHO can be fit into that one scene.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  12. AkamaruGames

    AkamaruGames Sage

    242
    42
    28
    If your goal is to establish the characters' personality, code and fighting style, the fight itself seems like a good place for it. Assuming they have little trouble dispatching a handful of bandits, the way they do so could speak volumes. Bushido's virtues are Justice, Courage, Mercy, Politeness, Honesty, Honor, Loyalty and Self-Control. During the course of the fight, it would not be hard to demonstrate these virtues:

    Justice - perhaps the leader of the ambush was actually a wanted criminal and the heroes willingly allowed themselves to be ambushed so they could capture him?

    Courage - despite being outnumbered, they show no fear, doing what is right despite it not being in their best interest to do so

    Mercy - Rather than slaughter everyone wantonly, they strike to injure and focus mainly on their goal of capturing the leader alive, perhaps trying to show through example why his cohorts should change their ways

    Politeness - Despite the fact that they are in a sword battle, they refuse to attack an unaware foe. Or perhaps after the bandit ambush but prior to the actual fight they introduce themselves and explain precisely what they have come to do (much to the amusement of the bandits).

    Honesty - When they actually turn in the leader, perhaps they are offered more than was agreed on and they turn it down. Perhaps the leader himself offers to bribe them and they refuse. Maybe they refuse to possess more than they can easily carry due to the belief that luxuries breed laziness?

    Loyalty - Perhaps the two have a reputation for being sellswords who will work for whoever offers them the right price, even though in reality this is not the case. Perhaps when the bandits see things going against them, they might try and hire one against the other, or try to convince them that the government that is offering the bounty won't actually pay it.

    Self-Control - There are any number of ways that the bandits could attempt to anger the heroes or convince them that the bandits were not actually bad people. They soon learn that to the heroes, right and wrong is not a philosophical argument for debate. What is right is right and what is not is not. There is no room for gray.

    Anyway, those are just some ideas. You wouldn't necessarily have to include all of them to get the idea across about their philosophy, and what you had in mind for them might diverge a bit from this (I just based these things on Bushido philosophies I have studied in the past). Still, the way they deal with their first battle really sets the stage for what you expect out of how they deal with conflict for the rest of the story, so it wouldn't hurt to really explore that through the battle.
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  13. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

    4,369
    947
    113
    ChasingSuns,

    You need to answer two questions:

    1. Why is the scene needed?

    You've answered that here:

    This is the information you need your scene to convey to the reader.

    2. Why is this scene interesting to the reader?

    How do you convey the information in part 1 in such a way that the reader doesn't want to pluck out his eyeballs in boredom? Typically, this involves some kind of tension.

    To me, these two questions are the essence of a scene: What do I convey and How do I convey it?
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  14. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,950
    163
    I agree with Brian, but it I'll add something I feel important for story beginnings. It has to do with interesting your readers.

    What questions are raised in the reader's mind?

    In my opinion there should be several questions raised & zero answered in the story's opening. Good books don't give away all their secrets from the get-go. They spark curiosity. They engage the reader through mystery.

    So, consider what questions you want the reader to ask during and after the first chapter. Construct events based on those answers.
     
  15. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    6,669
    4,681
    313
    What jumped out at me in your description is these are descriptions of events. They could be done by anyone. What I don't know as a reader is *why* the main characters are doing anything, what they feel about it, what decisions they are having to make. What's at stake for them?

    The reason why this is important is because the answers to those questions should drive the story into the dinner scene. As I read it, the two are utterly disconnected. If the characters save the lord's daughter, now that's a different matter. Or if those weren't bandits but were in fact the lord's men, that could make for interesting dinner conversation.

    But Scene Two has got to be driven by Scene One.

    IMO.
     
    ChasingSuns and AkamaruGames like this.
  16. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    3,531
    535
    113
    IMHO:
    The carriage ride with the ambush, good opening action, especially if it ties into later problems.

    The meeting of the lord, a quick meeting then right to dinner, see below:

    The dinner is a good place to introduce the people more in depth. The Lord doesn't know them, so it isn't an info dump to have them tell of themselves.
    If everyone knows everyone else, it becomes a "As you know..."conversation info dump. Meeting people allows more of the character to introduce themselves to the reader as well as the new person in the book.

    [It's funny how much I see writing mistakes in old tv shows. Of course, I see it occasionally in modern tv too.]
     
    ChasingSuns likes this.
  17. ChasingSuns

    ChasingSuns Sage

    337
    107
    43
    Thanks to everyone for the advice! Sorry for getting back so late, I haven't been around the computer much the past couple of days. In regards to the need of raising questions and getting the reader interested, I do have that lined up in the first scene, I just don't wanna spoil things for anyone just yet ;p I like what was mentioned about the way that they kill the bandits being important, as I definitely was including it for that purpose. From the sound of it, I think I am either going to cut it down to a brief meeting, or cut the scene entirely. I think I'll try them both and see which one works best and go from there.
     
Loading...

Share This Page