Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes trilogy. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a love of all things literary. When she isn’t writing, she spends her days with her husband, Matt, imagining things unseen and chasing their two children around their home in Northern California. To connect with Shan, check out her website, FB, Twitter, or Pinterest.
I'm stealing advice again, you guys. Stealing it and passing it along. To be honest, I can't remember where I read it first, but Missy Tippens over at Seekerville, has a great post on the topic.
There's a lot of great stuff out there--on the internet and in craft books--about writing a novel one scene at a time. The idea is that by focusing on individual scenes, you can ensure that each begins with a hook--something to snag the reader's attention--and that it ends with something to keep the reader flipping the pages--maybe a revelation, reversal or turning point.
There are huge advantages to drafting a novel this way. Scene by scene by scene. Among other benefits, you can even write your novel in whatever order you feel inspired to. You can start at the end if you want. Or in the middle if that's what grabs you. And you don't have to worry about how you move from one scene to another. Just get them drafted and connect them all later. Takes a lot of the pressure off and oftentimes words just flow.
Writing this way has helped me more often than not, but it can also be a two-edged sword. The downside, is that sometimes when we try to cram all the THINGS into each scene, it's very easy to become an episodic writer.
Have you heard that phrase before? It means you're taking your characters through problem after problem, but not really showing much forward movement, in either the character or the plot. It is especially easy to fall into this trap if you're a character-driven novelist. You have a character you love, so you play with them, torture them, solve their problem and then start all over again. That might make a great sitcom, but it's not going to cut it as a full-length feature film.
To avoid episodic writing, you must quench the desire to solve your character's problem in every scene. In situational comedies like The Big Bang Theory or (a favorite in our household) Everybody Loves Raymond, a problem is presented, squabbled over, and solved in thirty minutes, but when the next episode airs, very little has changed. God bless Raymond Barone, but the dude is the same slacker in the finale that he is in the pilot. Life has not transformed him.
Readers need to see change. It's real. We're either growing or regressing in life and you have to show that in your story. Good movies handle this well.
Take Space Camp, for example. Have you guys seen Space Camp? You should TOTALLY watch it this summer. Anyway, at the beginning of the story, Kevin is lazy and spoiled and flat out refuses to take responsibility for anyone but himself. Even when he's made Shuttle Commander. But when the shuttle is accidentally shot into space, and they almost run out of oxygen, and Andie is hurt, and Kathryn is scared, Kevin grows. He has to. He is forced to be the leader they need.
But it takes an entire movie to show that. A little bit of growth or regression in each scene is real. Transforming a character over the course of a single scene, is not. And that's why you should remind yourself of this tidbit every now and then.
Think movies. Not sitcoms.
Name a novel in which a character's growth either surprised you or inspired you. Tell me why.