How to Write Powerful Fiction

Time Shoemaker writes fiction and non-fiction. Many short stories for magazines. Important to know: there was a time in his life when he thought that writing was a gift. Now: there’s a certain element which is true, but that’s mostly just the desire. You can learn the technique.

With your writing… Writing started to change for him when he was writing for his kids. If you want to write, it helps if you know the audience you’re trying to write to. Improved for his writing.

Scene vs. Setting: This room is a setting. What’s actually happening here is the scene – the interaction between characters. Old fashion TV reused the same setting again and again. But what was going on was different every time.

Real life isn’t packaged in scenes

It’s the time when the curtain is up, to use a play analogy, is when the scene is in motion.

A story is a series of scenes.

We want to have a lot scenes which people love.

How do you know which scenes to write?
1. Know what your story is about. What does your lead character really want. Every scene you choose for your story needs to move the story forward. Scenes shouldn’t just entertaining. Not just because the author likes it.
2. Plan out your story. Don’t have to know it in detail, but have a sense for what’s going to happen in your story. He has some basic ideas. As he develops the characters and he gets to know them, they help carry the story. This approach takes the story, sometimes, to places which he would have never thought of.

It’s ok if you’re not a “mapper.” It’s a style thing.

You can over prepare, so you want to be careful about that.

You can write an infinite number of scenes. Pick scenes that you can handle. Don’t write a scene about inside the operating room if you don’t know about it. Instead write a scene about being in the waiting room.

Three things you need in a scene:
1. Beginning: you need a clear goal.
2. Middle: Strong conflict or maybe disaster.
3. End:

Goal must be something that you’re character wants. Something they’re willing to fight for. It has to be obtainable within a specific period of time. Something shorter term. Possible to build toward the big goal of the book.

Example, writing a story about Martin, a high school senior who’s secretly in love with Rochelle. Brian, his best friend, also likes her. Other girls chase after Brian, so Martin is hopping Brian is hoping that one of those will be able to distract Brian.

Story goal: have Rochelle become Martin’s girlfriend by Christmas.

That’s too big for a scene. So a scene goal might be that she simply notices him. Maybe he’s going to talk to her after class. Maybe he’s going to ask her to homecoming which is two weeks away. Any of those could be accomplished in a single scene. Those are steps toward the big book goal.

Make the scene goal clear and evident right up front in the scene. This will keep your reader engaged. Answer the question: what does the reader want to know? This helps keep your scene on track with the rest of the story. In addition, this help you know when to start the scene, and when to end it.

Once you start a scene you have to keep it going until the curtain drops. Maybe do some transition and then the curtain goes up on the next scene.

Start the scene as close to the action as close to the goal as possible.

Have a clear go for what you want to accomplish in the scene.

Conflict: man vs. man, man vs. time, man vs. nature, man vs. self, etc. Two dogs, one bone.

Make sure your conflict is strong. Strength comes from the rationale for why the characters want it.

Your story will get boring if it stays with “so far, so good.”

Try to build some sort of conflict or building tension on every page.

Disaster: what makes that goal harder than ever to obtain?

Try to make these directly related to his goal. Make them more personal.

End the scene when the goal is obtained or lost. Once our reader get’s the idea that the protagonist failed, end it. Cliffhanger.

Step on it after you start your scene. End that scene once the result is clear (i.e. made it or lost it.)

Stronger scenes:
1. Know who’s point of view you want to be in.
Get in that character’s head and stay there. Your character’s priorities will change based on what they care about.

Do’t just tell your reader what you want them to know. Show it.

If the main character doesn’t care enough, why should the reader. Reader won’t like it if the the character gives up. Oftentimes, it’s a choice between the lesser of two options.

The decision results in a new scene goal.

In a scene you want one continuos flow of time. In between, you can cover all sorts of time while you get read for the next big scene.

Once you know these elements… don’t go formulaic on this. Start playing with it a little bit. Get those things in there, you’re going to have stronger writing.

Read the type of things you like to write.