Saturday, May 10, 2014

Fiction Craft: An Introduction

By Robert Ferrier

As a beginning novelist, I knew writers who worried about choosing a premise, writing to the market or obtaining an agent.

I, on the other hand, thirsted for knowledge of fiction craft.

Novelists build stories from blocks, just as workmen build houses from bricks. To build our story house, we must know the materials, tools and techniques of our craft. I gained knowledge the hard way: by attending classes, writers conferences and workshops. I learned from published authors. I joined writing groups. I read novels and instructional books. Most importantly, I completed eight novels and started several others. Every level in the New York publishing industry rejected me, from associate editor to executive publisher.

How did I avoid quitting? By feeding "the critter" inside me. The beast subsists on the words I write. Salvation arrived in electronic publishing. E-book editors ignore marketing niches and gobble fresh, well-crafted stories.

How do you separate your work from the slush that floods publishers' desks? By knowing and using fiction craft -- the building blocks of story.

In this article we explore the engine which drives all commercial novels: Scene.

Scene: A unit of conflict experienced moment-by-moment by the reader through the character's viewpoint. The elements of scene include goal, conflict and disaster. A scene goal represents something that a character wants or needs to achieve the story quest.

Examples include, but are not limited to:
* Possession (such as a clue, a piece of information, victory in a confrontation)
* Relief (from danger, fear, domination, loneliness, poverty or revenge) from loss, betrayal or injury.
Scene goals force the viewpoint character to take immediate, specific and concrete steps, requiring both decision and action. These goals loom large in the character's story quest. In other words, something vital must be at stake.

Suggested Reading:
Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain
Scene and Structure by Jack M. Bickham
Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Twitter: @Dante_Dreams
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