Friday, September 7, 2007

Weekend Writing Workout #2 - Who's Got The Power?

When I write screenplays, I naturally break up the script into scenes. Any time there is a change of time and/or place, that's a new scene.

A man and a woman argue over breakfast, she runs out of the house. End of scene.

The woman cries in her car on the way to work. End of scene.

In the bedroom, the man packs his belongings. End of scene.

Just think of the editing and if the scene "jumps" it's probably a change of scene. Sometimes we follow the characters, though, like a fight in the house could end up on the lawn.

In any case, I think novels happen in scenes, too, we just don't really talk about them that way. But if you think about it, it makes sense, we often jump in time and place (we don't want to write every single detail of our protagonist's life). For instance, in the 7th Harry Potter book, there is an opening scene with Voldemort and his Death Eaters. After that, we "jump" to Harry Potter's house.

I often tell my writing students to think about who has the "power" at the beginning, middle, and end of the scene. If the power never changes, the scene might lack conflict and drama.

Let's go back to our fighting couple. At the beginning of the breakfast scene, she confronts him about evidence she has that he is having an affair. She's got the upper-hand, she's got the power. She's going to get this information out of him if it's the last thing she does.

But he's good. He manages to turn it around on her. She works too much, she's frigid, she's jealous, whatever. By the end of the scene, she's flustered, she can't remember all the things she was going to say to him. She runs out of the house, deflated.

Weekend Workout:

This weekend, think about a scene you are about to write. If the "power" lies with one character at the beginning, shift it to the other at some point, you can keep it there or move it back again. Perhaps the woman storms back into the house, grabs a knife, and stabs the guy. (not a recommended way to get your power back, but works in fiction)

Set your timer for 5-7 minutes and go through the startlines below for the scene you'd like to work on:

1) At the beginning of this scene, ___________ has the power because...

2) The power shifts when...

3) The scene climaxes when...

4) At the end of the scene, ___________ has the power because...

The advanced workout this week is to take a scene that you've already written and to do this exercise ADDING a power shift somewhere in the scene. If it starts with one person and moves to another, try moving it back again and see what happens.

Have a super weekend!


Vicki said...

ooh, I think this is just what I needed for my next scene. I know what it's about but I've been having trouble starting it.

Thanks so very much!!!

Danika / OpenChannel said...

Thanks, Vicki - you know I aim to please. :-)