Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Channel Surfing Has Taught Me About Writing

I'm not a channel surfer--if there's a show I want to watch, I watch it--but Honey Bear is, and I've started to notice a pattern. Sometimes he stops because he knows the show, but sometimes he stops because the scene simply refuses to be ignored. The conflict is easy to grab hold of, and it's interesting enough that he wants to see what happens. Heck, I want to see what happens, and I'm not usually paying attention.

In other words, the best scenes are the ones that don't require you to know what's going on, that don't rely on twists or inside jokes, that tell an intriguing story on their own. They have a beginning, middle, and end, and the stakes are readily apparent. Plot is how each scene relates to the ones before and after it, but taken out of context, each scene should still tell its own story. If readers flipped through your manuscript and landed on a random page, would that page hold their attention and make them want to read the rest? Would they be immediately invested in the characters and whatever problem they were facing? Would they be able to tell what was going on?

It's a simple lesson, but I do think it's worth mentioning. Awesome books are really just collections of awesome scenes.

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