string of pearls

For Gene, who asked about writing good fiction


A plot should have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

That is, it should move forward, mostly. It should go somewhere.


A scene is a tiny part of a plot, like a pearl on a necklace, held together by the plot (the string).

A scene should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. This means that it should start, and go somewhere, and finish naturally.

Do you detect a pattern here? This is the pattern, the shape, of all good fiction.

Good elements of every scene.

1. Conflict. Could be violent, gentle, subtle; could be mental or physical – but there should be conflict in some form. Talking about the weather has no conflict, unless the success of the next battle depends on the weather.

2. Setting. Where, who. In a restaurant, in bed, six people, two people, who they are. These are the anchors of any scene. Slide them in gracefully, not in a clump.

3. Direction. Every scene should go forward. Not back-and-forth.

4. A point. Every scene must have a point related to the story. Going off line loses the point, and loses forward momentum.

5. A reason. Every scene should add to the story, not repeat old stuff in new words.

6. Clarity. Although we write for ourselves, we must realise that the reader cannot read our minds, only our words.

And if you are writing only for yourself, none of the above matters a damn.


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