Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Scene is in the Details

What makes an awesome scene? I was thinking about that the other day while reading a very boring scene. It technically had all the components we talk about all the know, the 5 senses. It wasn't too much of the senses or too little.

Yet it was still boring. I laid in bed that night really thinking why the scene wasn't jiving with me and right before I went to bed realized...the details of the scene had no connection to the moment. We've all groaned over the millionth raining scene during heartbreak or mourning and bright blue skies during happy and love. Yeah, not so much talking about that.

What I am talking about is pointing out things in the details that somehow emphasize or contrast with the character(s) moment. Say someone visits a new country. First layer is the experience itself. First Timers...well time is going to seem to rush by and they'll notice the differences in clothes, speech, body language, weather. The taste and preparation of food, the games children play. All this will be in constant comparison to where they're from. It will either be in the extreme of exhilaration or misery (depending on the type of traveler they are and whether they're there by choice or not.)

Now, for the person who's been there before. They might notice some of this, but not all of this anymore. Whatever mood or frame of mind they're in will depict what detail they pick out to compare to their predicament or emotion. Time will not mentally move as fast because their brain won't be as busy logging new experiences. (There's a scientific test proving this...I'll look it up sometime and maybe do an article on just that.)

Then there is the next layer and making sure the character responds to those details based on the plot and the emotions he/she are feeling in the story. Say you have a first time who's just experienced the death of her parents and is now on a new planet to live with her extended family. Yes, she'll notice all the details, but her reaction will not be the same as a first time tourist. Everything she sees will be a painful reminder of her loss and the new/unknown future she's facing.

For fun -- not so much an example of right because, well how do I know if it's right? I wrote it, I'm not the reader -- here's an excerpt example from Duty and Devotion with the new comer scenario. (Just remember, still in line to be edited so might change a little in the final draft.)

Afterwards, let me know your favorite connective scene in a book or poem. One of my favorite is Edgar Allen Poe's Anabel Lee. Man, that guy knew how to draw the emotions of both the character and the reader by highlighting nature and surroundings.

* * * * * * *

Kaitlin and Jenny dragged her to the ground hangar where they joined up with another crew to go to surface cruising. Nettie trained in simulation and gone out a couple times, but the fear of real surface, open space, still unnerved her. Kaitlin once concluded it was because Nettie had been raised in a bubble.

When their surface cruisers rolled out of the hanger decompression area, bile threatened to undo her. Since it would have taken too long to take off the suit, she forced it back. These vehicle models were not enclosed, but had an exposed frame the other crew called a ‘roll cage’. Nettie decided not to ask why they called it that. They might have answered her, and she would have had to de-suit.

She just stayed silent while Kaitlin and Jenny fought over steering privileges, repeating to herself that people had been surface exploring for several hundred years. It was a perfectly sound method of fun and adventure. Yeah, she thought bitterly, fun and adventure. Nettie clung to the vehicle’s handles as they covered ground, heading away from the facility.

"Relax, Nettie. At least we’re not somewhere like Mars…though crater jumping would be fun.” Having lost, Kaitlin sat in the back seat while Jenny steered. The other crew drove ahead of them.

Nettie took a relaxing breath and decided to approach the situation as a soldier would during a mission. She mentally recorded the scene. Behind her loomed the structure of the facility. Several stories of metal and pressurized diamond glass lit up by bright lights. Beyond it, encompassing two-thirds of that part of the sky was Jupiter. The orange and white bands twisted slowly.

Facing forward, she took in Callisto’s open frontier rolling out to caress the horizon. It was a flat surface of eroded and dusty glacier-type ice several hundred miles deep. Beneath that was water that had never seen the light of day.

It wasn’t to say the waters are dark. Hundreds of years ago when man first landed on this moon, they drilled through the glacier to look for little green mermen. Instead, they found small to medium size life forms of the fish variety…and they found brightness. Aptly named the Under Ocean, the core of the moon kept it warmed and lit. The magnetic balance between the core and Jupiter prevented the glacier surface from cracking. The surface’s coldness and the core’s warmth kept the glacier surface from melting, or Under Ocean getting too warm.

Nettie drew her thoughts from under the surface back to the Callisto sky. Without the dampening of the facility lights, Galileo’s constellations shown like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. Her fears calmed and she forgot the fear of open terrain. She recognized the beauty of it. This was the definition of wonder, of awe. Majestic had no true meaning for her until now. The brightness started where the sky kissed the surface in the distance and went across the whole heavens.


  1. Love the excerpt, Amber. I like how she's reluctant at first- almost deciding to back out- and then, once she's outside, she's awed by it all. Great changes/transitions.

    Now, as to your other question, can't think that hard on a Saturday! LOL! But I'll def. mull it over.

  2. Thank you so muich Jillian! I'm glad you liked it. I really like Nettie's transformation in the book. Her life goes down a path that's less one moment of climatic event and more a constant bumpy road. She really learns to adjust to what life throws at her.

    And regarding my question, I'll hold you to that, I'd love to know! It might give me something new to read.

  3. Great article, AR. Thanks.
    When you spoke of connective scenes, I have to say, I'm always looking for them in books. I love how Julia Quinn does them in her writing. And oftentimes Susan Wiggs. They are the ones that catch my eye.
    Blessings for a great day of writing to you.

  4. Yes, Shirley, Susan Wiggs has some wonderful scenes that call to the character and the mood!

    I'll have to check out Julia Quinn. Thank you for posting a comment!