Saturday, May 28, 2016

Setting the scene for readers

There are many techniques that are essential for writing a good novel. One of them is setting the scene at each new chapter and scene break. It’s easy to forget this when a writer is caught up in his or her story. As writers, we know our characters, where they are, and what they are doing in the story, but it’s our job to convey that to readers. Otherwise, they will be forced to figure out what’s going on. This will draw them out of the story.

In some of the books I have edited, a character will pop up out of nowhere in a scene and suddenly speak. This character’s presence needs to be established early on. Another common issue is dialogue without any tags to show what the character is doing or where he or she is.

The best way to prevent this is to start with the point-of-view character for that section if the story has more than one. If the section starts with a different character, it can be misleading to readers. Next it helps to add a description or a dialogue tag with a detail or two to let readers know where the characters are and what they are doing. This should be done in the first paragraph. Setting the scene for smoother transitions can be easy to forget because we are thinking of so many other aspects of the story, but it’s important not to confuse readers. Below is an example of a new chapter beginning from one of my books.

It was much too quiet even for the night. The trees stood silent in the forest, their leaves motionless. Lycaon lifted his face to the sky, listening for the familiar rustling of nocturnal creatures, the occasional sound of an owl. Nothing.
Anexus made eye contact with one of his warriors, his expression wary. He had sensed the strange quiet too.
“We are being hunted.” Lycaon moved his bound hands to his side. “Untie me.”
The king of Orchomenus cast him a doubtful frown.
Lycaon shrugged. “Then leave me bound. I will not be the one killed by whatever creature is watching us.”
A shrill scream shattered the quiet.
“What in the deepest reaches of Hades was that?” Anexus gripped his sword.
“Some hapless creature just met its end,” Lycaon whispered. “You and your men are next.”
“Untie him.” Anexus pointed to one warrior then motioned for his other men to form a circle.
The young man quickly untied Lycaon. He rubbed his freed hands to get the blood circulating then grabbed his sword from one of the warriors. “I sensed it earlier. Whatever it is, I doubt it is human, and it is probably what killed your people and livestock.”
Uneasiness filled the air around the warriors. All of them gripped weapons, bodies tense, eyes wide and vigilant.
A swift shadow moved between two trees.

Beauty may be the real beast.

Kelley Heckart
Otherworldly tales steeped in myth & magic.

No comments: