Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Joyce Sweeney's Workshop--Scene Building

I feel lucky to live in an area with so many helpful writers, and especially my fabulous mentor, Joyce Sweeney. In addition to leading a weekly critique group that I participate in, she also holds workshops. In February, she led a fantastic workshop on scene building. By the end of the two hours, I knew exactly how to attack a new scene I needed to work into my novel! I asked how much I could blog about it, and Joyce said that I could share the details, because she always adds new material to her workshops.

Here it is! I hope it helps you as much as it helped me!


Each scene needs four things:
1. Idea
2. Plot
3. Voice
4. Structure (which includes emotion and character)

Everyone is good at one of these—it's like nature gives us one for free. We're often okay at two others as well. But there's usually one out of the four that we suck at, and need to work hard to achieve.

A well built scene is like a well-plotted novel. It has an arc.

If you feel like something is missing from a scene in your manuscript, see if you can add any of these to help round out your scene arc.

Parts of a scene:
1. Orientation—the reader is now in your world and needs to know who is in the scene, what is going on, and why, when, and where it is happening.
Exercise: Pick a chapter to work on throughout this exercise and write the first paragraph.
2. Promise—This is the foreshadow. What the reader should worry about. You can find a key word to use. In Headlock, Joyce used the word wash out as her key word.
Exercise: Write the second paragraph using a key word.
3. Inciting event—This is where the scene really begins. Often, a character will enter a scene at this point.
Exercise: Write your inciting incident.
4. Plot point 1: This happens when your main character becomes committed to a course of action.
5. Plot point 2: This is the low point in the scene. There is often a second low point...after that occurs, things usually start to look better.
6. Raise the stakes for your main character. This can occur at the same time as the climax (the most important thing and the real reason for writing the scene).
7. Resolution or promise (it depends on where you are in the book).

If it's the last chapter:
How different is the character now?
End the character arc of the entire book.
Hint of what was, and a little promise of what life might be like now.

If it's the first chapter or any other than the last:
Promise of upcoming event in the next chapter


• If a scene continues for several chapters without any time lapsing in between, then you can keep one scene arc for those chapters.
• Don't have two people talk, and then have someone speak up halfway through the scene that the reader didn't know was there the entire time.
• Scenes often have narration in the beginning and at the end, with lots of action and dialogue in between.
Add This Blog to the JacketFlap Blog Reader

Site Meter

Add This Blog to the JacketFlap Blog Reader

Site Meter


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 2nd, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this, Mindy.
Mar. 3rd, 2010 04:04 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Lorraine. :)
Mar. 3rd, 2010 02:12 am (UTC)
So interesting, thanks for sharing that. It seems like each scene has a structure similar to the entire novel but on a smaller scale.
Mar. 3rd, 2010 04:07 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Karen. Yes--you're right about the structure. I never realized it before. I think we do a lot of these things without thinking about them. I kind of had trouble stopping with one paragraph in the orientation exercise, and was pleasantly surprised that I had a promise in my second paragraph before we reached that part of the workshop!

It's great to have the steps in writing, in case we ever get stuck on a scene!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 04:02 am (UTC)
Thanks for sharing this, Mindy!!
Mar. 3rd, 2010 04:09 am (UTC)
You're welcome, Sharon. :)
Mar. 8th, 2010 12:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing Mindy,

Been wanting to read through this post for some days, but coudln't find the time. Today i could, and will try to apply it to my incomming revision.
Working on second draft for my YA.
Mar. 8th, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
You're welcome, Anna. Good luck with your revision! I hope you have an amazing writing day. :)
Feb. 19th, 2011 12:37 am (UTC)
Loved it..
I'm just finding this, Mindy and writing it in my writing journal. Thanks so much, it really helps me :)

Found you on twitter too :)
Denise Bruce of Ingleside, PEI
Feb. 20th, 2011 05:35 am (UTC)
Re: Loved it..
You're welcome, Denise. I'm glad it's helpful!

If you click on the tags for workshop, SCBWI, or Joyce Sweeney, you'll find more writing tips. There are some great ones two posts ago from the Novel Intensive I took at a FL SCBWI conference.

Thanks for finding me on Twitter, too. I'll hop over there and follow you, too. :)
Feb. 20th, 2011 08:15 pm (UTC)
Re: Loved it..
I think i wrote those notes down too, they were about beginner problems...Voice ..dialogue... was there more that those?

your notes are great, i'm so glad you shared them and thank you so much, Mindy :)
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


Mindy's head shot
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.


Latest Month

June 2015
Powered by LiveJournal.com