Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Writing 3-D Scenes, Part Two

by guest blogger, Linda S. Clare
Click here if you missed Writing 3-D Scenes, Part One

Three is a Good Number.
  • How Long Is the Scene? A good scene moves along, doesn’t have a lot of pregnant pauses and if the writer needs a character to do something irritating, boring or repetitive, your job as the writer is to give the illusion of those things without making the reader suffer through a real example. So if a character is a small child who’s whining and begging, you might not include all the exchanges between the parent and child. Only write enough for the reader to get the idea. If you really irritate, bore or otherwise annoy the reader, they’ll tune out. 
  • Welcome to the Rule of Three. A series of three is satisfying to the reader. Try using no more than 3 examples, lines of dialogue or other elements to monitor your pace. It’s a guideline, but it works and keeps those chunks from rising from the dead.
  • Hone Your Dialogue Skills. If you have a great way of writing about the scene but then write stilted or unbelievable dialogue, the scene won’t feel 3-D. Listen to the way people speak, use contractions, limit your use of dialect and learn the correct way to punctuate dialogue. Use the Rule of 3 to keep characters from speechifying or becoming talking heads.

Manage The Drama Mama.
  • Beware the Cold Mashed Potatoes! A 3-D scene can quickly get hijacked by flashbacks, aka back story. What’s your real-time scene doing while the character’s mind “reels back?” If that character is dining on mashed potatoes and lifts a forkful to her mouth just as her mind reels back, then the longer she “remembers,” the colder the mashed potatoes are going to be when she comes back to real time. Keep flashbacks brief as possible. The Rule of 3 comes in handy with this too.
  • Make An Emotion Thesaurus. For those “inner” moments, you’ll quickly run out of ways to show an emotion without resorting to telly descriptors. Try making an Emotion Thesaurus, taking as many as you like and listing all the ways real people show their feelings. Collaborate with your writer friends or critique group to have more of a range. And please, no roving body parts!
  • Change the Camera Angle. If your scene has more than two players, refocus your “camera” at times so the reader doesn’t forget the ones who aren’t speaking as much. Cowboys playing poker.

Timing Is Everything. 
  • Start Close to the Action. One of my writing mentors has this great story about a woman in a white evening gown who orders a glass of red wine. Her story (about how her gown and life were ruined) begins just as the bumbling waiter trips and the wine arcs out of the glass. Start your story just before the one thing happens that changes everything, aka the “inciting incident.”
  • Foreshadow and Withhold Info. You can go back and “plant” things so that when you reveal the story, the reader expects a logical development of those things. By withholding certain bits of info you create tension and maintain suspense. Twins’ story.
  • 3-D Practice: Set-up, Build-up, Pay-off. Scene writing is like a joke. Your beginning is a set-up for the characters and the story promise or goal. The middle you must write scenes that are more and more tension, or rising in action. The pay-off is the CLIMAX scene, where the story goal’s outcome is revealed. You get better with practice. Practice writing scenes, lots and lots of scenes. With any luck your reader won’t even need any special glasses.

Linda S. Clare is the author of several nonfiction books and a novel, The Fence My Father Built, (Abingdon 2009). She teaches both fiction and nonfiction at a community college and is an expert writing advisor for George Fox University's doctoral program. Her next novel, A Sky without Stars, is part of Abingdon's Quilts of Love series, and releases in early 2014. She lives in the Northwest and blogs at www.Lindasclare.com. Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Lindaclarebooks or on Twitter: @Lindasclare


  1. Great post. I emailed the addy to several of my writing buddies. The rule of 3 works in so many areas--I use it in pottery all the time.

  2. This is very helpful! Thanks for posting it, Linda. Thanks also to Pat Trainum for forwarding it to our critique group. I'll post this on Facebook...right after I go and read Part One.

  3. A landscaper once told me to plant bushes in threes. The number stuck. I can remember the same rule for writing.