Thursday, March 22, 2012

Scene endings and sub-genres

We've talked before about Jack Bickham's brilliant exploration of scene-ending "answers"-- that is:

Does she get her scene goal?
Yes, but (something unexpected also happens)
No, and furthermore (something even worse than failure happens)
(Notice that "yes, she gets her goal for the scene and that's all" isn't one of the answers... why not?)

So I mentioned this to a student (Lindsey), and she took off running with it, pulling out some of her favorite books in her subgenre and analyzing the ending. She writes romantic comedy/chick lit, and she found that the successful books in that subgenre she examined tended to have most scenes end with "yes, but." Yes, she got her goal, but something unexpected happened!

Lindsey thought this scene ending might especially be useful in a comedy (so "yes," that is, it's light and generally the characters are going to get what they want, but also "but" to disorient the character and create conflict and additional plot events).

I notice that "danger" books, like adventure, suspense, and thriller, might have mostly "no, and furthermore" scene endings as they take the character (and reader) into progressively greater risk and disorientation.

What do you think? "Disorientation" is key to both of those, notice.  Why? To keep the character (and reader) on her toes.

That's something to keep in mind if the book seems static or the pacing is slow. Maybe we have too many scenes ending "yes" or "no," without the additional thrust added by the unpredicted "but/furthermore."

What about your type of book? Do you see anything notable about scene endings?

Off to check scene endings in fave books....


Evangeline Holland said...

What a great exercise!

Thinking back on the last romance I read, scenes usually ended when the hero or heroine experienced a setback related to their goal that usually coincided with learning something new about the other protagonist.

Anonymous said...

I nominate this for most awesome post of the year. It is so hard to think this analytically when you are in "the process." This basic rule just is so simple and so true. Thanks!

Julie Harrington said...

I'm a fan of the complication ending, so I tend to give my characters a big old fat BUT! ending in their scenes. Not only does it up the conflict, it sets up a nice, organic chain of events for the next scenes. I find I keep my stories tighter and things rolling and (generally) avoid the dreaded sagging middle syndrome and slowed pacing.


Edittorrent said...

E-- would you say that was "no, and furthermore?" It seems like that would be good in a romance because it would lead to them knowing each other better.

Anon, I think I like "yes,but" endings--I like setting up the good, and then, "Oh, but there's bad news too."

Edittorrent said...

Julie, I agree "but" does that-- the "chain" of events. Such a good term-- chain... not just linked, but also "pulling" the story.