Friday Five: 5 Quick Things to Remember When You’re Writing a Scene

I’ve been thinking about scenes lately, one of my favorite elements of writing, and thought I’d share.

1. Your hero has to be active. She has to want something and go after it.

2. Your antagonist has to be active. Just like the hero. Even if it’s from behind the scenes.

3. Both goals have to matter. Something has to be at stake; something bad has to result if (almost always when) the hero or antagonist doesn’t succeed.

4. Things have to get worse. Your hero can’t just make one try for the goal, fail, give up, and go back to being okay. He has to do battle, against increasing odds, across the scene. Then he can fail. Badly. (But not give up!)

5. Your hero may have only one antagonist, but that antagonist is not the only place that obstacles come from. Friends cause problems, parents step in the way, your hero becomes self-destructive.  The world itself makes trouble–weather, culture, history—everything can conspire to stop your hero from reaching their goal. Obviously, you’re not going to throw everything all together in one scene, but remember to check out all the choices in the smorgasbord of obstacles, and pick the ones that fit the moment best.

To read more about scene, pick up one or both of these great books: James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure and Jordan Rosenfeld’s Make a Scene. Then go write a few wonderful scenes of your own.


2011…A Year I Didn’t Schedule


I’m old enough now to be an age I didn’t think too much about when I was young. Oh, yes, I pictured things in my future (what worrier doesn’t?). I thought about being a grown-up writer; I thought about falling in love and getting married; I thought about being a mother; I thought about having my own house. But–on my virtual-imaginative calendar–all those things happened at some magically young date somewhere in my twenties (Well, okay, the writing part was going to be BIG before I got that old!) and maybe my thirties.

I’m not sure what I thought I’d be doing in my forties.

More writing, at the very least. 🙂

I think, when I was young, visualization was about goals, very specific ones that would be defining achievements. Moments. And I’ve had those goals and those moments and, happily, am still having them. But now, I think, life looks more like a continuum (thank goodness), and visualization seems to me more about the how than the what.

Some people around the blogs have been picking words for their 2011 year. I kind of like that concept, but have never really tried it out for myself. This year, the first time I let my brain skitter in that direction, a word popped up into my mind.


Yes, obviously, this kind:

But also my own peacefulness. I look at everything I’m doing, at everything that’s happening with my family, and I don’t want to give any of it up. Let’s face it, I kind of want to add a few more things. Jordan Rosenfeld says it beautifully with her New Year’s post, A Year of Spaciousness.

What I don’t want is this:

So…peace. 🙂

In 2011, I resolve to move forward on my writing path. I will make progress on my YA historical and my picture book. I’ll listen to new story ideas and drop them into folders. I’ll take steps to knock on (and hopefully open) doors so that I can write more nonfiction for kids and teens. I’ll keep critiquing with my critique partners and editing for clients. I’ll keep reading. I will do all this while enjoying the rest of the world–my husband and son, my home, my friends. And I will breathe and take breaks and stop–if not to smell any actual roses–definitely to look around me and see what is being wrought.

The thing about not having planned a year is that you can let it unroll, walk along it, and see what it brings.

Happy 2011 to you all.

The Honest Scrap Award: Passing Along the Thanks

Last weekend, Kim Koning sent me a note that I might want to check out her blog post. What a wonderful surprise to find out that I was on her list for the Honest Scrap blog award. Here’s the description of the award:

The Honest Scrap Award:

This award is about bloggers who post from their heart, who often times put their heart on display as they write from the depths of their soul. This means so much to me as that is the root reason of why and what I write about. I believe writing is your heart without a mask. My writing, whether it be a blog post, a poem, a piece of prose or a WIP is the truest part of my soul. To me writing is about honesty and truth-seeking. There is the saying that the pen is more powerful than the sword. I believe that writing is a way to challenge people and to speak often times for those who cannot speak.

As a recipient, I get to pass the award onto other bloggers who I think meet this description, and then you get to hear 10 honest things about me. Lucky you! I’ll try not to get too gushy. 🙂

Step 1: Sharing the Award

I’m going to pick some of the bloggers I’ve discovered more recently, bloggers who I think examine this writing life closely and, yes, honestly, but mostly with intelligence and imagination.

And ten things about me you may never have wanted to know:

1. I do worry more than I let you see on the blog. So much for completely honest. 🙂

2. Working at my parents’ veterinary clinic, I successfully and without injury held (down) many cats and dogs for exams. I have a huge scar on my hand from the one time I tried to hold my own cat while a vet took his temperature. File that under the category of Should Have Known Better.

3. I don’t really like the beach. I lived near it (5 minutes) for 18 years of my life and lived on it for a year in college, and have probably accrued fewer hours of actual on-the-sand-or-in-the-water time than many people who grow up in the midwest.

4. I took myself off to Great Britain for five weeks when I was 25, by myself, with a backpack and a lot of train tickets. Got lost many times, but lonely only once.

5. Someday I will probably own something produced and manufactured by Apple. But not yet. (Especially now that Scrivener for Windows is “coming soon!”)

6. I don’t like shoes. I wear them because I have to, but only when absolutely necessary.

7. You don’t want to give me a plant. For the house or outside. Not if you care for its survival. Seriously.

8. Years ago, a friend and I rode in the Port Townsend Kinetic Sculpture Race. We won a prize for best costumes. Don’t ask.

9. I type 100 words a minute. And, no, I won’t type all your college essays for you. Been there, done that.

10. When I was in grad school, I worked as a tour guide at Ashlawn, James Monroe’s home in Charlottesville, VA. And, yes, I started saying y’all. It just felt way too rude, in that place, to use California-speak: “Okay, you guys can move into the next room now.”

So there you have it. Happy Honest Scrap Award to Mike, Jordan, Michelle, and Claudia, and happy weekend to everybody else!

Around the Blogosphere

It’s pretty much the same-old, same-old around here–writing, writing, keeping house, writing, losing to son at Trivial Pursuit, writing… Anyway, I haven’t done a check-in for you lately with what other bloggers are talking about, so here are a few of the posts that hit me this week.

Laura Purdie Salas‘ blog posts are some of the most honest I read, especially about the writing process, the career of writing, and how that all can feel at any given time. Here she is talking about one of the hardest decisions a writer can make…and why.

Using Walmart to decide what’s a good book to read? Eeep! Nice discussion-starter post by Jim McCarthy.

Christie Craig, guest-posting at the Bookends Literary blog, debunks a few myths about writing and publishing. She’s picked a few myths I’m not crazy about & does a good job at that debunking, I think.

As I write my first draft, my mind jumps back & forth a bit thinking about where this story truly needs to start. I love Jordan Rosenfeld’s thoughts on what that opening needs to be doing.

Times are a-changing. Everybody (okay, not everybody, but you know…) is talking about this FREE ONLINE CONFERENCE for kidlit writers. Yes, free. Run over and take a look.

And, finally, this video has been going around for a while, but if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s a can’t-miss. At least for me, who did my Masters orals on the Brontë sisters and my thesis on Wuthering Heights. Thanks to Suzie Townsend for posting it at her blog.