“Scene and Structure” by Jack M. Bickham is a comprehensive guide for writers, focusing on the crucial elements of crafting effective scenes and structuring a compelling story. Bickham provides valuable insights and practical advice, emphasizing the importance of engaging readers through well-constructed scenes and a solid story structure.
What is a scene?
The book begins by defining what a scene is and its significance in storytelling. Bickham explains that a scene is a unit of conflict that moves the story forward, and it should contain a clear goal, conflict, and resolution. He emphasizes the need for scenes to be dynamic, engaging, and purposeful, urging writers to ensure that each scene contributes to the overall plot and character development.
What is a sequel?
One of the key takeaways from “Scene and Structure” is the concept of “scene and sequel.” Bickham introduces the idea that scenes are followed by sequels, which allow characters to react and reflect on the events that occurred. He emphasizes the importance of balancing action and emotion, suggesting that sequels should provide a breather for readers while still maintaining tension and moving the story forward.
Follow the conflict with the character’s
- Emotional reaction.
- Reflection on the events.
- A decision that moves the story forward.
What is a story structure?
Another significant theme in the book is the importance of story structure. Bickham explores various structural frameworks, such as the three-act structure and the four-part structure, and explains how they can help writers organize their stories effectively.
The three-act structure is a framework commonly used in storytelling, which divides a narrative into three parts: the setup, confrontation, and resolution. In the setup, the characters and their situations are introduced, and the conflict is established. In the confrontation, the conflict intensifies, and the characters face obstacles and challenges. In the resolution, the conflict is resolved, and the story is concluded.
The four-part structure, also known as the “hero’s journey,” is another framework used in storytelling. It divides the story into four parts: the setup, the response, the attack, and the resolution. In the setup, the character is introduced, and their normal world is established. In the response, the character is called to action and begins their journey. In the attack, the character faces obstacles and challenges, leading to a crisis point. In the resolution, the character overcomes the crisis and returns to their normal world, having undergone a transformation.
Both structures share similarities in that they provide a framework for organizing a story and maintaining a solid narrative arc. They both involve introducing characters, establishing a conflict, and resolving that conflict. However, the four-part structure places a greater emphasis on the character’s journey and transformation, while the three-act structure focuses more on the escalating conflict leading to the resolution.
Character Development and Motivation
Bickham highlights the significance of character development and motivation. He emphasizes that characters should have clear goals, desires, and conflicts, which drive the story forward.
Techniques that Bickham provides for developing well-rounded characters.
- Creating clear goals, desires, and conflicts for each character.
- Ensuring that a character’s actions and decisions align with their motivations.
- Showing the character’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Giving each character a unique voice and personality.
- Providing backstory and context to explain a character’s behavior.
- Showing how characters change and grow over the course of the story.
By implementing these techniques, writers may craft characters that are both believable and relatable, capturing the interest of readers and propelling the story forward. Bickham provides guidance on developing characters with clear goals, desires, and conflicts, and ensuring that their decisions and actions align with their motivations, resulting in fully realized and engaging protagonists.
Revision and Editing
Bickham encourages writers to critically analyze their scenes and story structure, ensuring that each element serves a purpose and contributes to the overall narrative.
Bickham provides practical tips for identifying weak scenes, resolving plot holes, and enhancing the overall flow and coherence of the story. Specifically, he recommends writers to:
- Cut scenes that do not serve a clear purpose or advance the plot.
- Ensure that each scene contains a clear goal, conflict, and resolution.
- Use dialogue and action to add tension and interest to scenes.
- Avoid excessive backstory and exposition, which can slow the story down
- Ensure that each character’s actions and decisions are motivated and consistent.
- Use sequels to provide a breather for readers while still maintaining tension and moving the story forward.
- Analyze the story structure to ensure that it is effective and coherent
- Revise and edit the story thoroughly to ensure that it is polished and engaging.
I personally found this book to be a very helpful resource for improving my storytelling skills. However, I must admit that the book is jam-packed with so many useful tips and tricks that it is overwhelming to try to implement them all at once. It’s like trying to eat an entire buffet in one sitting – you’re better off picking one or two things to focus on and coming back for more later.
That said, Bickham’s insights into scene construction, story structure, character development, and revision/editing are all incredibly valuable and have helped me to become a better writer. If you’re looking to improve your craft, I highly recommend giving “Scene and Structure” a read. Just remember to cherry-pick the tips that resonate with you and take your time to implement them effectively.