How to Write Gripping Scenes

We’re so glad we discovered Rita Karnopp’s blog. And we definitely think you will be too. Rita writes about prose writing, but good writing is good writing, regardless of whether it’s for the page or the stage:

by Rita Karnopp

bloody handWhat exactly [comprises] a scene?  I think of a scene like a trip to the mountains.  There are valleys of flowers and cliffs of varying shapes and colors.  Sometimes the end of the trail leads to a beautiful waterfall.  Suddenly we notice a dead body floating at the far end . . . and the story begins.  Each scene you create should stand on its own and add to the story in a crucial way, creating a structurally solid read.

How do we make scenes intrinsically sound?  The way I do it is to imagine every scene in my head.  I see my characters and feel what they’re feeling and understand why they react the way they do.  If you run your story through your mind like a movie, you’ll find holes and implausible behavior.

This is a good way to let your characters take over, do what comes naturally, and lets them improvise . . . my characters have written some of my best scenes.

Check the beginning of each scene and make sure it grabs your reader immediately.  Again keep in mind, “no one waits for the action to begin.”

Don’t just be concerned with scene beginnings, but be equally aware of scene endings.  This is your chance to make the reader unable to close the book and continue another time.  Stop just when your character is going to make a critical decision or when something terrible just happened or is just about to happen.  Maybe the character is pushed to the limit and is ready to either explode or do something they might regret.  Make your reader decide, ‘ok, just one more chapter.’  If I’m into a book – I’ve been known to close it (begrudgingly) at three am.

I know this might sound strange, but a scene must serve a purpose.  Its job is to further the story, clear-up or create doubt, and add intensity.  It must nurture the story and keep our readers turning the pages.

Be aware of placing in every scene.  Dialog can speed up your scene and thoughts and descriptions will slow them down.  This creates a feeling of movement.  You can use internal and external conflict, dialogue, actions, and description to draw the reader from chapter one to reading ‘the end.’

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Love & Money Dept – TV Writing Deals for 7/31/14

Latest News About Writers Who Are Doing Better Than We Are
by munchman

  • Frank Spotnitz (THE X-FILES) is adapting Phil Dick‘s mucho-kudo’ed masterpiece of fiction, The Man in the High Castle into a pilot for an Amazon Studios series. (There is so much wonderfulness in that sentence that I just have to sit back and taste it for a beat. If this comes anywhere near yer friendly neighborhood muncher’s expectations, I promise to stop mocking Amazon and except it as, oh, almost a genuine, professional studio-network-whatever. And who knows? Maybe I’ll toss out the “almost” bit too.)
  • Warren Ellis (currently a big deal comic book writer, don’tcha know?) has a deal with Universal Cable Productions to write an as-yet-untitled pilot about an as-yet-unspecified bunch of characters engaged in as-yet-unspecified, um, stuff. (I can hear the Warren Ellis fans celebrating already. As well that should.)
  • Taylor Elmore (JUSTIFIED) has a new overall deal with CBS TV Studios to develop and write and produce and all that good stuff that we all want to do. (And while I’m not a member of the JUSTIFIED Rave Society, I wish the Tayman all the luck and success in the world. Cuz I just can’t help meself. Y’all know how positive a nature the munchman has.)
  • Charlie Kaufman‘s (INSIDE JOHN MALKOVICH) FX pilot isn’t going to series after all. (Proving that even the A+ listers can get crapped on. Sorry, Charlie – and believe me, I mean it. Cuz if they can reject Charlie Kaufman, what chance do the rest of us writerly types have?)


And the winner for the absolutely best medium for presenting well-grounded but outrageous and biting satire is:

The interweb!

Check out this brilliantly painful short short by Duncan Elms and you’ll see what we mean.

Duncan Elms on Vimeo

Understanding How Comedy Works

what are you laughing at…Which is, you know, kind of important if you’re writing it. Recently, several of TVWriter™’s comedy writing friends (industry biggies, baby!) independently recommended this book as well for fledgling humorists/writers to get a handle on what it is exactly that they’re supposed to be doing. So we thought we’d pass it on:

The book is called What Are You Laughing At? and it’s written by Dan O’Shannon, MODERN FAMILY producer who knows his away around the funny, as somebody who prefers to remain anonymous for obvious reasons (but is otherwise a funny dood himself) has said to us. The Amazon description gets to the heart of the matter:

If you’re looking for a book that will teach you how to write comedy, we suggest you keep moving. You still have time to pick up a copy of Writing Big Yucks for Big Bucks before the store closes. However, if you want to understand the bigger picture — what is comedy, why do we respond to it the way we do — then you’ve come to the right place.

What Are You Laughing At? presents an entirely new approach to comedy theory. It challenges long-held beliefs and shows how the three main theories of comedy (incongruity, superiority, and relief) are not in conflict; but rather, work as parts of a larger model. There are many examples pulled from the author’s own experiences, writing for shows such as Cheers, Frasier, and Modern Family. By the end, you’ll have an understanding of just what happens when man meets comedy. It will change the way you hear laughter.

The theory of comedy! What could be more worthwhile? Check it out! (And no, TVWriter™ isn’t gonna get a pfennig if you click “Buy.” Not our style, gang, as you know.)

Guys Mills first-grader wins national writing contest

Speaking of young writers, we think this is awesome news:WCLogo_Mag_forAbout STAFF REPORTErie Times-News 

A first-grader from Crawford County has won first place in a national contest sponsored by PBS.

Ethan Mattocks, of Guys Mills, won the top prize in the first-grade category of the annual PBS Kids Writers Contest.

WQLN-TV, the local PBS affiliate, announced Ethan’s honor at a news conference at its Summit Township studios on Thursday.

Ethan was chosen as a winner from thousands of submissions from 365 PBS stations throughout the country, WQLN said.

His winning story is called “Once Upon a Pencil.”

Major congrats to Ethan! When’re you gonna turn pro? (We need you!)

Advice for young writers

We’re talking to you, kids!

babywritingby Nathan Bransford

I often receive e-mails from young writers in high school and even younger, and I’m always so impressed with them and even a little bit jealous. I had no idea I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school and I rue all those years I could have spent honing my craft. And even if Ihad known I wanted to be a writer, I didn’t have the Internet to reach out to other authors and learn more about what it takes to write a novel.

These young people are getting such a head start on their careers, and I can’t wait to see the incredible books they produce.

There’s a long tradition of writers offering advice to young writers, perhaps none greater than Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet.I can’t top that, but here’s my own modest contribution to the genre.

Here’s my advice for young writers:

Don’t write for the writer you are now. Write for the writer you’re going to become.

Writers aren’t born, they are made. It takes most writers years and years to hone their craft, and it’s helpful to have had years and years of reading experience now. By the time you’ve reached high school you have lived enough to have tasted the world and it may feel like you’re ready to channel it all into a novel, but don’t expect that your writerly success will come immediately.

Yes, there are occasional wunderkinds that defy this rule. But even S.E. Hinton, who published The Outsiders when she was sixteen, had already written several novels before that one.

Within the publishing industry, you won’t be judged based on your age, you’ll be judged against other writers who have spent years and even decades writing. Being good for your age isn’t enough. You have to be good period, and it’s difficult to achieve that level with limited experience.

Don’t judge your writing success by whether you’re able to find publication immediately. Instead, write to get better, write for catharsis and practice and fun. Your future self will be thankful for the time well spent.

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