1. foxanthony
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    foxanthony Member

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    Do you use Dwight Swain's Scene Structure?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by foxanthony, Jun 9, 2011.

    I'm trying to understand and apply Dwight Swain's Large Scale/Small Scale scene structure techniques.

    Here's an abbreviated version of a form I created applying my (likely wrongheaded) understanding of this theory:

    Scene


    1. Goal
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)

    2. Conflict
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)

    3. Disaster
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)


    Sequel


    1. Reaction
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)

    2. Dilemma
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)

    3. Decision
    • Motivation
    • Reaction
    (repeat as needed)


    I've used this to write two scenes so far. I'm pretty happy with the results but I haven't seen anywhere these techniques integrated in this way.

    I'm hesitating to commit a week or two to trying to get comfortable writing this way out of fear that I've misunderstood how these techniques work and that there is a better approach to their application.

    I'm hoping for advice from writers who confidently and effectively use these techniques (this might seem obvious, but you know - this is the Internet).
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have read the book techniques of the selling writer too and I liked it a lot, especially the way that he breaks down writing in smaller pieces like this, but I haven't applied just this part of his advices yet. I think I'll do as he say and just write on, and when finishing I'll check that every scene is constructed this way, that every reaction has a motivation and vice versa. I think it's easier to work this way because for me it would interrupt the writing-flow if I had to think about this all the time, but I DO believe in this, that it works. Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to write that way and then it will go automatically, what do you think? I absolutely loved the book and have read it twice or maybe even three times already.
     
  3. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I also liked the reaction sequenc with Feelings, Action and Speech. I think it easy to just limit yourself to one of these. Of course you don't need all three in every sequence but when you do it sounds and reads so much better and looks way more professional.
     
  4. foxanthony
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    foxanthony Member

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    All I know about this is what I've picked up on the web. From the little experience I have in applying it I believe the first drafts will take longer to produce but the succeeding drafts should be a breeze.

    Without any revising I've noticed my writing looks a lot better, i.e. the appearance on the page. It looks a lot like the writing of the writers I really admire which is an effect I've never been able to achieve just writing off the top of my head, even with endless hours of editing.
     
  5. foxanthony
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    foxanthony Member

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    Yes, I have that in the version of this form that I actually use. I edited it here so it would take less space.
     
  6. darkhaloangel
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    darkhaloangel Active Member

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    I've never heard of this - and don't quite understand what it means, but any sort of planning stratagy that works is useful - especially if it makes you think about believability and realism in terms of the characters. Which as a young and first time writers is my ultimate downfall
     
  7. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I've never heard of this either. It seems too structured for me, but it might work well for others. Best of luck with it!
     
  8. Daydream
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    Daydream Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeh I've never head of this either. Seems abit confusing to me actually :p
     
  9. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I made an outline kind of like this a while back, although I didn't know there was an official name for it. Mine was slightly different but the same principle. It went something like this:

    Main Character: brief description, name, occupation, brief relationships to other characters etc
    Beginning Point: Where are they in the story on page one, before they get launched into the conflict.
    Fears: Both large-scale concerns and acute phobias, both of which can serve to motivate the character or serve as motivations to fight for or against something.

    Catalyst #1: The first major event that launches them into the conflict and the role they play as the MC.
    Initial Response: How do they immediately react to this event
    Reaction 1
    Reaction 2
    Reaction 3 etc
    These are basically the events that unfold as a result of the character's action in response to the catalyst.

    Catalyst #2: This is the event that amps up the character's mission to a new level, or provides higher stakes
    (Repeat other steps with response, reaction etc)

    Catalyst #3: The event that changes the course of the mission, or a major plot twist
    (Same other steps)

    Showdown/Climax Triggerer: What is the event that will ultimately lead to the catalyst. I.e. if the final showdown involves the MC and villain meeting up due to the MC responding to a ransom phone call from the villain, the catalyst trigger is the phone call
    Same sequence as other steps, but ending with the showdown and closing out with some wind-down resulting effects of said showdown.
     
  10. foxanthony
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    foxanthony Member

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    That's impressive intuition. That's an outline for a classic three act structure.

    Anyone who's interested in my source for this technique can find it here http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php

    By the way, I posted the exact same thread on authonomy.com and have been battling trolls all morning. Harper Collins is stupid for putting their name on that site. They clearly don't understand how the internet works.
     
  11. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    as a constant reader for nearly 7 decades, a writer for nearly 6, and a writing mentor/writing consultant for more than 4, my best advice to new writers is to NEVER write fiction by formula, no matter who says it's a good idea...
     
  12. cshell
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    cshell New Member

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    This just put me at ease
     
  13. Ubrechor
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    Ubrechor Active Member

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    ^^^I was going to put exactly this!!!!

    Well, except for the 7 decades part. And the writing mentor/writing consultant part. Hey, I'm only 15! :p

    But I still agree; although some people may find a structure or "recipe" for a scene useful, I don't think it's right to use such a formula. Writing shouldn't have any limitations or instructions. It's bad enough when someone says I can't use the word Fantabulosity! lol
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    I agree that it's not a good idea for new writers to force their work into a structured mold. On that note, I also disagree with those MC profile sheets that give uber trivial details like favorite song. But for certain novels with complex plots, I think they can certaintly help a writer organize where the plot is going.
     
  15. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I've heard of it, but formulaic writing generates pablum.

    It's more important to understand the driving principles, like what comprises plot and how do plots interact to drive the events in a storyline.
     
  16. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think there's any harm with it, as long as you use it s a guideline and not get too tied up to it, like you can't write anything that doesn't fit into the pattern. I think it's a helpful tool for beginners to know how to construct scenes that makes sense, but you also have to not tak it too seriously. if it limits your creativity more than it helps it then it probably wont work for you but some writers might find it helpful to know how a scene is structured and to have something they can fall back on. it doesn't need to be all good or bad, for some it works and for some it might not, it depends on what kind of writer you are and how flexible you are.
     
  17. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Have to agree that writing by formula is a bad idea. If you want to output generic, mediocre drivel, go for it. Apart from that, if you find such things helpful in a given instance, it can probably be used without too much problem, but if you adopt it as a general method for all of your writing then I don't think you'll produce much of worth.
     
  18. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    How many Nobel Prize winners have used this formula? How many Pulitzer Prize winners? How many Man Booker Prize winners? Is it really necessary to use a paint-by-numbers formula to write well?

    Of course not.

    Stuff like this might help bad writers become passable writers, but it won't help decent writers become great writers.
     

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