Making a Scene [David Gates]
What is a scene anyway? (A mini-narrative, with beginning, middle, climax and end, most often an encounter involving two or more people.) Where do you begin a scene? (As close to the end as you can. E.g., after the phone rings, somebody walks over, picks it up and says hello.) Where do you end a scene? (When it’s done what it needs to do. E.g., before they hang up.) What happens in a scene? (Something had better.) How does it move the larger narrative forward? (By letting us know something we don’t already know, either about the story or the people.) What is each person in a scene trying to achieve—overtly and/or secretly? (Something that conflicts with what somebody else is trying to achieve.) But you’re not saying that every encounter in fiction is a form of combat? (I’m not?) But not if the people are friends or lovers, right? (Especially if.)
Bring in a scene or two from your own work, and be prepared to discuss why it’s necessary to your larger narrative, what it’s accomplishing, and what’s happening in it—both the actual events and the undercurrents. We’ll pay particular attention to dialogue: what’s said and how it’s said; what’s not said and what that says.