Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Scenes v. Summaries

I've been learning a lot from Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul lately.  I was lucky enough to win it during National Picture Book Writing Week and have thoroughly enjoyed working with it.  Today, I wanted to share one little tool that applies to picture books and (ahem) non-picture books.  It's about choosing when to write a scene or a summary. 

A scene is like a line by line from real life...the story you would expect to see in a movie or on a stage.  A summary skips the details and quickly tells you what happened. 

Ann explains that scenes do one of two things: move the plot forward or reveal something new about your characters.  If you're writing a scene that does neither of those things, cut the scene and summarize it.  If you're summarizing a move in the plot, slow down and take the time to write a good scene. 

I immediately began thinking of the scenes that I've enjoyed reading: Katniss shooting the apple at the game-makers feast, Mat Cauthon using a quarterstaff to beat a small army, Nancy tripping over her sparkly parfaits, and many others.  They are all full of action and either move the plot forward or teach us something about the characters. 

Writing a scene is a lot more work than writing a one or two line summary, but it is so much more fun to read.  Are you up for a challenge?  I'm so excited to try writing some scenes that I can't wait to finish posting this! 

6 comments:

Kenda said...

This post reminds me that I have "Writing Picture Books" on my shelf, too (I also won it--at a regional SCBWI conference a year ago), and have yet to open it up. Shame on me! It sounds like it should be the next book I pull out to read. Thanks for the reminder :-)

As for writing scenes, I'm still in the beginning processes of plotting my next WIP. Like you, I can't wait to jump into the scenes...

Dawn M. Hamsher said...

Carla, Thank you for posting this. I especially liked the 3 paragraph. That will really help as I begin editing my book.

The Write Soil

Carla said...

Kenda, It's been such a fun, motivating, encouraging, and informative read--I'd totally recommend it! I think I'll do couple more posts inspired by it too!

Dawn, I'm glad it helped! I think they're great points to remember as you write. Good luck with the edit! ;)

Carla

M.C. said...

So true. I've read authors who make everything a scene . . . how dreadful. Oh, and congrats on winning the picture book. Thanks for sharing!

nutschell said...

I always write my books in terms of scenes. They're definitely much more fun to write!
nutschell
www.thewritingnut.com

Carla said...

MC, It's true...the variety is nice to read!

Nutschell, It is definitely more exciting...it kind of feels like a movie playing in my mind is getting to land on paper!

Carla

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