COW: How random is random in writing

writer-1-150x150So I’ve been reading craft of writing books lately and I’ve been editing. Mainly, I’ve been reading books on structure and scenes. Reread a couple of my craft books I had on my Nook as well as in print. A few things caught me this time which I hadn’t noticed before. This is what happens when you review regularly– new things catch your eyes and mind, which help your growth as a writer. The thing that stood out is that in real life– random things DO happen. However, in fiction– that’s just not allowed but very rarely. Everything is noted and plotted out beforehand. *puts up hand* Now, before you pansters out there have a hissy fit, even you, who don’t plot, know there must be conflict for your characters to learn, grow, and eventually achieve their goals. Otherwise, it would be the most boring tale known to mankind. Yet, it’s true- we can’t just have them catch a cold because it just happens. It happens because Martha, their cubicle mate was sick with pneumonia, which she caught because her abusive ex-husband was stalking her and chased her outside last week, when our hero helped her out and chased the ex away with a baseball bat, etc. See what I mean? Planned. Not random– it happened just because it did. Blew my mind away– Poof! I had a late night “Come to the Writing Gods” moment with that revelation. Wasn’t pretty. 

Thus, revelation one hit and I have inserted it into my writer mode. More importantly, I realized just how important it was to remember that nothing happens without a reason in all types of fiction– whether it’s romance, mystery, or even epic fantasy. You might be wondering why I was reviewing scene and structure over and over again. There are reasons for it–I honestly, truthfully, without qualms HATE the terms “scene” and “sequel” when discussing the makeup of a scene. Especially when there could be repeated scenes and sequels multiple times to make up enough Scenes to create one whole chapter. *headdesk* There has got to be a better term. I’ve heard people call them MRU– motivational reaction unit. This is somewhat better– it actually helps a bit to understand what’s going on. You do an action of some kind and there’s a reaction. The reaction could be now, it could be later. That reaction is the motivational reaction unit which grows the characters goals further along the path with the plot. You put these together until you have developed along enough where you’ve accomplished your main goal for this Scene.

Confused yet? Yeah, welcome to Cyn-world. The “scene” “Scene” “sequel” (which by the way could be many sequels to just one scene) was enough to make my mind go mad, mad I tell ya! The MRU conversation helped a bit, it made me realize basically it boils down to everything happens in the action/reaction/response way. But it didn’t help me to understand why the use of the terms which made no lick of sense at all. Then I discovered they’re hold overs from playwriting. So a scene just wasn’t a scene, it was part of an Act. It was also a scene, but a scene was composed of mini-scenes as well. Yeah, that doesn’t help when you have a chapter and a chapter might be composed of one big scene or of multiple scenes. When you look at how your characters act and react to each other– those are scenes and sequels upon themselves. Oy vey, shoot me now! What made it all go into place were three books which I highly recommend– Story Physics by Larry Brooks,  Scene and Structure by Jack Bickham, and The Cheaters Guide to Writing Erotic Romance by Morgan Hawke. I also lucked out I was taking two beyond fantastic courses at Savvy Authors— one by the marvelous and always awesome Linnea Sinclair and Christine Fairchild on sensation scenes. Both women were awesome and taught me so much– even when I basically lurked in both classes. Which brings me to the other thing I learned– conflicting your character appropriately. 

Linnea Sinclair stated making sure your character is truly put through the wringer the correct way is truly the best way to keep the reader engaged from beginning to end. I admit, I can be a hard ass. But I also like to see moments where they can breathe, collect themselves, and reassess. She never meant pacing couldn’t allow for that, but she speak about making sure the conflicts truly matched up to what the goals are– and that in the end, the goals are achieved not only despite surviving the hardships and conflicts, but despite the character’s own bad choices and mistakes as well. That’s what really hit me– the character is part of the problem too. They’re not perfect, they’re not always going to see the forest for the trees in how they want to attain their goal and bottom line– humans are lazy. That workshop really hit home for me on a lot of things– things I’ll be able to use on my stories from here on out to make them not only tighter, but so the story plays out better for all the characters involved. It meant a lot to me to not only take the course, but doing some of the homework on my own. I saw a noticeable difference in how I viewed my work than before. Definitely an improvement. 

bangdesk    Occasionally, I know I’m still going to hate my writing. More importantly, I know that I will have moments where there will be craft things that make no sense to me. Terminology or worse. But right now, I’m happy. I have found new ways of understanding for the whole scene and sequel thing that makes sense for once. It’s an improvement over what I had before– which was a mess where I told anyone if they spoke about it to me again– I’d have to kill them. It wasn’t pretty. Now, however, I’m better about it. I still don’t like to talk about it in their terms, because I don’t think they’re as aware of how they interchange things- but me– I am. I know now that Scene and scene are not the same. I have scenes to fill my chapters. Scenes are comprised of action-response (MRU) (which are both scenes and sequels) until something is completed or something changes completely. That’s when I know we’ve crossed to a new chapter or a scene break because we’re shifting POV. See, a happy Cyn is now here. This is probably the best news of all for me. You laugh, but if you knew how hard this was for me, you’d understand just how much this bothered me for years. Now I’m at a point where I get it and I’m okay. This is good. Very good. 



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