Wednesday, September 23, 2020

First sentence in the scene -- Starting the experience

  First sentence in the scene 

 Starting the experience   


I’m having some fun creating a big Building Bolder Scenes course, and now I’m focusing on the mechanics of creating the scene experience with the sentences and paragraphs. Scenes are EXPERIENCES, not just recountings. So getting the experience started early—the first sentence!—can set the reader up to FEEL all the way through.

  Just keep in mind that your reader is apprehending the scene holistically-- she's incorporating every detail, not just your character's thoughts and feelings, into her experience. So you can imbed emotion subtly in the description and action. Just remember not to overdo. But yes, you can use adjectives and adverbs here. Just don't use them when you don't need them ("shouted loudly, bright scarlet"), and then when you DO use them, they'll have more effect.

You can set the stage early, hint at that "beginning emotion" of the emotional arc of the scene, by anchoring the setting in the first paragraph or so... but meaningfully. Here are some examples of how to sneak in emotion with physical/setting detail in the first paragraph of the scene:

His bulky body filled the entrance and blocked most of the afternoon light.

She shielded her eyes against the harsh noon light and squinted at the broken window.

He parked in the pool of yellow light from the streetlamp and slowly got out of the car.

She woke when the dawn light sliced through the curtains. Nothing had changed.

He squinted to see through the dimness in the barroom, searching the dark booths for the woman he had lost.

The car brakes skidded on the gravel, and when they finally stopped, the moonlit lake was only a few feet from their front bumper.

The Angelus bells were ringing when she started across the muddy field towards the church.

She woke suddenly. The red glowing numbers on the bedside clock read 2:04. It took her a moment before she realized she had missed her flight.

He was going to be late for work again. Again.

All she wanted to do was rush home and be halfway through a quart of Java Chip ice cream before American Idol came on.

She pushed the porch door open and stood there a moment, drinking in the view and the crisp mountain air.

Jamie woke up cold and damp on the bare open ground.

I knew this place—the kitchen looked familiar and unpleasant.

Patty rubbed the condensation off the passenger-side window and looked  out at the snowdrift. "How stuck are we?" she asked.

He put his fork down on the dining room table and grimly called the family to order.

The old barn stood alone on the hill.

The road gravel infiltrated her sandals, and she was limping and lost by the time he found her.

It was a lady's parlor, all dainty and tidy, and he didn't think he better sit down on any of the little chairs.

The barroom smelled of ground-out cigarettes and spilled beer.

She zipped up her parka and pulled on her gloves, took a deep breath, and stepped out the door into the howling Chicago winter.

From the lantern-lit park pavilion across the river drifted the lazy strains of a dance band.

The library was so overheated every breath felt like she was sucking in a blanket.

It was going to snow. She could taste it with every crystalline breath.

Not a breeze stirred the evening air, and she hesitated with her hand on the gate.