Monday, July 17, 2017

In your novel, a scene takes place in real time.

Scenes are used so readers can participate vicariously by identifying with the protagonist or the other characters. A scene takes place in real time. Your readers see events as they unfold, as they happen, rather than described after the fact.

Of course, anything, which can go into a scene, can also be summarized. Since scenes are harder to write, many beginners rely too heavily on narrative summary to tell stories so they don’t have to write scenes.

A century ago, you could write an entire book in narrative summary. However, most novels published today contain a great deal of action. 

Where many beginning novelists go wrong is to put passages into action, which should be narrated, or to narrate passages, which should be put into action.

Narrative summary indicates the passage of time briefly so readers know where they are. Narrative summary has its place in your writing; breaking up scenes, for example. 

However, narrative writing should not dominate. Save narrative summary for plot developments simply not important enough to justify being written as scenes.

From Hard Fall by Ridley Pearson:

On Saturday morning, August 25, nearly two weeks after the Bernard explosion at National Airport, Daggett stood in the lobby of the Seattle Westin.

Using narrative summary, Pearson neatly moved us along in time two weeks and even changed our location with just one sentence. 

Narrative summary does serve a purpose. It does vary the rhythm of your writing. Scene after scene with no break can become relentless and exhausting. Narration, used effectively, can give your readers a chance to catch their breaths.

Some plot developments are not important enough to justify scenes. A scene of Veronica getting the headlight fixed on her PT Cruiser should be narrative summary.

A gun fight with the bad guy should be an action scene. Not a narrative summary like this: “Tasker went to the warehouse and, after a grim battle, managed to subdue Carlo Hernandez.” Yuck. No.

You should not summarize during a high point of conflict in your novel. Moment-by-moment development makes a scene more lifelike and exciting. If you summarize a scene that should be in action, readers feel cheated.

----- (From NOVEL SECRETS available in paperback and Kindle form.)

Lary Crews