1. Mark Theo Alexander
    Offline

    Mark Theo Alexander New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2013
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0

    Troubles ending a scene.

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Mark Theo Alexander, Oct 9, 2013.

    I'm not new to writing. Just realizing I'm new to bringing a said chapter to a conclusion. Sometimes it feels like the chapter should end at a certain point or phrase. Other times it seems to end too suddenly. Anyone else have this dilemma? How do you finish yours..any tricks, rules or phrases that help with this sort of dilemma?
     
  2. A.M.P.
    Offline

    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2013
    Messages:
    2,024
    Likes Received:
    1,125
    Location:
    A Place with no History
    For me, I use chapters as dividers between important points of my story.
    So Chapter 1 MC has to deal with X and Y, do Z, and interact with this dude to get some info to move him along.
    Once all that is done, I end the chapter as what it needed to do has been done.

    Think of ending it in a way that feels like a mini conclusion or perhaps in a way that transitions easily into the part/scene.

    Basically, it has to flow well.
     
  3. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    You talk about a chapter, but title this ending a scene, so I'm assuming you believe them closely related. While a chapter end can also end a scene, it's not, in and of itself, a scene end. They will almost always end in a disaster of some kind that will cause the protagonist to lick their wounds, rethink and reword their plan, and begin the next scene with a bit more risk and fewer options, as the story heads toward the black moment where there are no options and all seems lost—the introduction to the climactic moment. In sounds as if you're thinking of scenes in the same way one writing a play or film might, as the action that takes place in one setting or time. That's true for films, where the structure of the medium tends to impose that, but not for printed-word fiction, where a scene is a unit of tension.

    A chapter usually ends on some turning-point in the plot, and acts as a kind of meta-punctuation akin to an exclamation point. Something unexpected has been revealed, or the protagonist learns that a task must be completed before the next goal may be attained. It can also be a break in tension where the protagonist may take a breath, like taking a nap or sitting down to think things out.

    What it shouldn't be is a place where the reader can take a break because the problems seem to be in abeyance, because the reader has no pressing reason to come back.
     
  4. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    That definition is a bit overly melodramatic, don't you think :) I like "scenes as units of tension" definition, though: it suits almost any type of writing...
     
  5. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
     
  6. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @JayG no, I'm quite aware of the definition (a scene as a unit of tension) and of Swain's work (but I don't necessarily agree on his approach) - but I just thought your wording in that paragraph sounded a bit overly melodramatic :)
    I understand the effect, but it may be confusing for someone who have in mind stories different from, say, type of stories Swain did (which he sold, of course, but frankly, a couple of short thrills in pulps and a script for a mediocre suspence is hardly a rich and promising bibiliography)...

    I just opened "L'Etranger" - scenes just blend one to another, with some of character's aims unresolved, some not stated, and you can read half of the book without noticing a conflict or an antagonist - the whole point of the story, if you like, is in the lack of an antagonising force and, with that, in the search for a much needed conflict. Take the very first chapter for example: based on conflicts and failures that rises tension there are some zero scenes in it (you could say that "he runs for the train and catches it" is a scene - but it's barely two sentences). If you go for a setting+character change scene definition, you can roughly get 3 scenes (arrival at the nursing home, the wake, the funeral) with some exposition in the begining and random paragraphs in between). Not a great narrative, right? just one of the crucial books in the history of modern literature....
     
  7. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    It sometimes takes me a few goes to make the ending of the chapter perfect. It helps to be flexible. It all has to make sense, to set it up for the next time you want to pick up where you left off and has to intrigue the reader and make them think of the possibilities. One thing that helped me immensely was to understand the 'scene and sequel' dynamic to story telling. So you end the chapter on scene, and resume later on sequel. Or vice versa. That way it flows beautifully. Try it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2013
  8. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    You make the mistake of thinking that Swain was teaching how to write as he does. Read Jack Bickham's books on writing technique and you'll find virtually the same advice, and his books were in a different genre.

    They worked together, and taught the professional fiction writing workshops at Oklahoma University. Swain used to fill auditoriums when he went on lecture tours, and they were on writing fiction, not fiction for those who write sci-fi or western adventure. You can find everything he suggests in play in most modern fiction, because he didn't invent the techniques. What he did was to analyze the structure of successful fiction, across the board to find the commonality and the reasons things did or didn't work. You'll find the motivation/reaction technique, which is what he's most well known for, at work in most successful fiction. His explanation of what POV is (as against choosing the personal pronouns to report it with) applies to every genre.

    Certainly, I can't speak for anyone else, but it wasn't until I read his, Techniques of the Selling Writer, and applied them, that publishers said yes.

    A sample of one, written in 1942, when the style of writing was far more journalistic. Look back to the work of Dickens and they don't conform to modern writing style, either. Finding one or two books out of thousands, that are written in a different style proves little. The goal is to write for todays audience and convince a publisher to risk the firms money on bringing it to market. Seems to me that you stand a better chance writing like Stephen King or Nora Roberts than Albert Camus.
     
  9. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,602
    Likes Received:
    5,877
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    I'm trying to picture this and I'm having trouble. I have chapters that end in the middle of a scene, but there is definitely a change in the action that creates the chapter change.

    Using just a framework summary, can you give an example?

    In one of my scenes it's a coming of age celebration with 4 young men of the village being initiated into the hunting party, essentially becoming men even though they are still teens. I divided the chapters into before, during and after the contest of demonstrating their hunting skills. The entire scene was all within the festivities, but it took place over 3 chapters.
     
  10. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @JayG as I said, I understand where you come from and I do agree that said approach is relevant today and was relevant yesterday. A bunch of authors use it word-to-word and sell their novels ans scripts. That's a good point.

    Theoretically, however, I have a problem with descriptive theory turning prescriptive advice - but that's not the only problem.
    The approach popularized by the said OU workshops and later by several authors, is NOT new and is as contemporary as Camus' work - it is, in that form, 50 years old (Swain re-edited his book 30 years ago, Bickham was there almost from the begining). The basis for the initial approach couldn't include King's or Jones's prose - but could've included Camus' work... A propos, note that in 1942 Camus style was NOT a norm - cheap pulp authors were, as they are today, the dominant quantitave force in writing. Also, the issue of scene structure etc has nothing to do with individual or contemporary style (on a linguistical level), but is a problem of structure on a narattive level.

    Take, for example, "scenes and sequels". The three-part structure of a scene is another reading of Aristotles - causation and character's goals turn a story into a plot - who, may I remind you, doesn't deal with 20th c. prose but with drama even older then him. The idea of "sequels" feels like being recycled from formalists and their inability to deal with "redundant text": the leftovers between structural segments their critical aparatus was unable to analyze. Some creative writing gurus go as far as to propose mirroring this 3+3 (or just 3) structure on the sentence level, to actually "keep the reader interested by wanting him to read the next sentence" - which is ridiculous, and is based on a unrealistic simplification of reading (and narrative) process. I always get the impression that the advise is to constatly remind yourself, the author, that the reader has other things to do in life and you need to entertain him/her all the time… Practice show otherwise...
     
  11. JayG
    Offline

    JayG Banned Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2013
    Messages:
    642
    Likes Received:
    358
    Location:
    Philadelphia PA
    Except that while elements of it existed, no one had collected, categorized, and explained it in terms that the average untrained person could understand. And if you look at the reactions on the Amazon pages, you'll see page after page of people who are damn near ready to place a shrine to either Bickham or Swain (mine is in the basement). Read a few dozen of the comments before you toss their work away as just a pair of latecomers unworthy of note. To quote from one of those reviews: "An absolute prerequisite to success in any craft is acquiring its vocabulary. If you go in for graphic design, you'd better know how to use concepts such as contrast, repetition, proximity and alignment. And if you go in for fiction-writing, you'd better be able to use concepts such as scene, sequel, conflict, stimulus-response, and so on."

    In dismissing the majority of writing as "cheap" you also undercut your own argument—and perhaps insult many of those here who aspire to be among the majority. Are they writing cheap fiction simply because it's in a genre you don't favor? You appear to hold up Camus as a example, then say that the vast majority of those who are selling their work today are writing in another style. I don't know about you, but I think there's a lot better chance of making an editor say yes if I write in the style the majority of readers prefer.

    In Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer there is no mention of a three part structure to a scene. Bickham says there are three parts to a scene, but treats a sequel as something outside that. So while you say you're addressing scene and sequel you're talking about something unrelated. In any case, no one has said they invented the terms. The value of their work is a function of the number who find what they have to say valuable as a means of understanding the craft.

    I'm not certain that, "feels like," is a valid debating point. And while I can see and read what you say about it, I'm unable to relate it to anything Swain, Bickham, or any of the fifty of so authors of writing texts I have in my library say about it. I'm not trying to start a fight, but I'm not certain of the point. Certainly you feel strongly, but I'm not certain about what. Are you saying that people shouldn't read texts on writing craft? That the two I mention aren't accurate?

    My respect and admiration of those two men is based on several things;

    1. They focused on, and clearly explained, the nuts and bolts of what a story is, what its elements are, and how they work together to involve a reader emotionally. They are not even remotely prescriptive. In fact, Swain, in his opening chapter lists the traps a writer can fall into, and number five is "They attempt to write by rules." A page later he says, "No one can call his shots as a writer until he abandons his dreams of magic keys and, instead, looks reality straight in the eye." He reinforces it again a page later with : "No writer in his right mind writes by a set of rules. At least, not by somebody else’s rules. Why not? Because rules start from the wrong end: with restriction; with form; with mechanics; with exhortation about things you should and shouldn’t do." Certainly that is by no stretch "prescriptive," so far as how to write.

    If you haven't read the book you should. It's an absolute gem, and should be on every writer's personal reference library, because it's dense with observations and comments that are springboards to writing skill, many of them things that once explained make you say, "Why in the hell didn't I think of that, myself."

    2. The number of people who quote them in their own articles on writing. Forgetting the books on writing that either quote one of them or expand on some point they raised, search on Techniques of the Selling Writer and you'll find page after page of people talking about that book, using examples from it, or just praising it. You don't generate that kind of response over fifty years after a book was written unless you have something important to say.
     
  12. tarynalicia
    Offline

    tarynalicia Member

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2013
    Messages:
    16
    Likes Received:
    5
    Location:
    Mississauga Ontario
    Sometimes I find when writing that once I go back afterwards to read what I've written, that's when I find the perfect end. Obviously everybody is different but if you feel more comfortable just writing, then write a lot and then go back over it to see what feels right.
     
  13. Burlbird
    Offline

    Burlbird Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2011
    Messages:
    978
    Likes Received:
    295
    Location:
    Somewhere Else
    @JayG Haha! I just love this kind of arguments :) However:
    a) if I ever offended your religious views, I deeply apologize... what you do in yoir basement, as far as you don't sacrifice virgins, is none of my concern. Also - to go just a bit further with the analogy - if a Jehova's Witness comes to my door and his only argument for joining them would be: "There are so many of us!" I still don't think I'd convert :D

    b) as I said before, I do believe there is a place for any and every method/approach/creative philosophy as long as they give results... And I thought you gave a GREAT definition of scene ("unit of tension")! I myself embraced the concept to resolve issues on several ocassions, and it works, etc.

    c) what I said about aristotelian reading and formalistic appriach - it is implied in "Tecnique..." , if you know where and how to look for it. My problem with creative writing howto books is partly based on the fact that, to make concepts easier to grasp and to approach a wider auditorium, they are usuallt devoid of any critical apparatus (footnotes are a big no-no, quoting relevant theorists is too academic, etc) - this makes it very hard to follow the author and build a parallel opinion on the subject. Popular psychology comes to mind...

    d) so, 50 years is contemporary, 60 years is ancient history? doesn't compute. And the only reason I mentuoned Camus (not a great novelist in the first place) is to show that there are other ways to approach a problem of scene structure, that give valuable, relevant and significant results.

    e) Camus vs King may be 1000 vs 100,000 pages of work, but I still take Camus... It's my preference and I'd never dare to suggest you shouldn't choose differently. That also doesn't mean I don't enjoy a King novel from time to time - reading Clive Barker's "Waeveworld" right now, and it's a perfect example of a swift, "rising-stakes-with-every-page type of prose... And it's cool.
     

Share This Page