Lesson 6: Scene Construction

Lesson 6: Scene Construction

 

Below this picture is the last two scenes in Chapter 1 of my novel: Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble in Chinatown. I will explain to you what each scene represents and why. 

My first Chapter was designed to do a few things.

  • Introduce Gunny Mac and Gunny Wojo

  • I needed to show the reader who Gunny Mac was and why he had to leave the Marine Corps after getting terribly wounded on Guadalcanal in 1942.

  • The audience now knows that Gunny Mac wins the Navy Cross and is an actual hero.

 

Scene 1

The scenes job.

  • To show Mac survives: because just before that most indications were he did not survive.

  • To show he didn’t feel he was a hero

  • To show somehow he was going to survive with the help of people

Col Edson walked the ridgeline after the fight that lasted all night.  Edson’s Ridge was littered with dead Japs, wounded, and dead Marines. Navy corpsmen were taking care of the wounded Marines, and litter bearers were removing the dead. The battalion surgeon was busy triaging the Marines not expected to live when he heard a calm voice behind him. “Where is he, Dr. Ryan,” asked Col Edison.

“I moved him over to the best spot I could find, Sir. He is the third litter on the right.”

Col. Edison walked over to the litter, and Dr. Ryan followed. The Colonel knelt next to the wounded Marine, his face contorted in pain. He looked down at the blood-encrusted Marine and placed his hand on him. Edson started to pray out loud, and Mac opened his eyes. The bullet wound through the side of his throat made him speak as if he was choking.” My boys stopped them, Sir, didn’t they!” Edson jerked his head up at the gasping sounds from Gunny Mac.

“No, you stopped them, Gunny, a fight that will go down for ages! Edson yelled to the surgeon. “Get this Marine to my tent now, and if he dies, I’ll hold you personally responsible. I want every possible help for him.”

Scene 2

The job of this last scene in the Chapter.

  • To show Mac made it to Hawaii and to a Naval hospital

  • To show how badly wounded he is

  • To show he is fighting for his life with the help of hospital staff

  • To introduce Lt. Van Deer who he falls in love with

  • To introduce the second love of his life Seadog.

Five days later, Lt. Van Deer sat in a briefing with the Head surgeon at the naval hospital in Oahu, Hawaii. She leaned forward, listening intently to her boss explain the injuries of their newest patient, who had been flown in directly from an aircraft carrier.

The surgeon put on his reading glasses and glanced through the patient’s medical records. “Gunnery Sergeant Mac sustained enormous injuries, and it is a miracle he is alive. All total, he received thirty-seven wounds. The doctor shook his head as he marveled at the list of wounds, shot in the side of his throat, two gunshot wounds to his arms and leg, deep bayonet wounds in the side and stomach, knife wounds, and slashes, the rest minor shrapnel wounds. Medically, it doesn’t look good…, but they say he was the reason they held onto Bloody Ridge. And we must hang onto him. He will need extra help, and I will ask for volunteers to work their shifts and stay with him through the night. He has given his all to us, and we must give our all to him. But don’t forget we have hundreds of wounded Marines who also need our love and support.”  Lt. Van Deer’s hand shot up immediately.  She shouted out, “I’ll care for him from midnight till my morning shift begins…someone can watch him from five to twelve.”  The surgeon smiled and told everyone to sign up for their extra shifts and called Lt. Van Deer over to him. ”I was hoping you would take the overnight shift and be with him. If anyone can help him, it will be you. Just remember there is an excellent chance he might die. I don’t want you heartbroken.” The surgeon started to walk away and turned around to Van Deer. “I get more amazed every day of my life by these Marines; there is no quit in them.

At midnight Lt. Van Deer walked over to Mac’s bedside, leaned over him, and wiped the sweat off his forehead. She sat in the chair by his bed, listening to the sounds around her. She heard his labored breathing caused by the drain tube in his neck. His face was calm and peaceful. He needed something to hang onto, and earlier that morning, she had an idea. She knew Mac could die in the next two weeks. She lifted the puppy from her shopping bag and placed him on the pillow next to Mac. His little pink tongue stretched out and licked Mac on the side of his face. As if the puppy understood he curled around the unwounded side of Mac’s neck and fell asleep. Lt. Van Deer watched the two sleeping, and tears filled her eyes. She prayed in silence for the Marine in the bed and waited for morning to come.

 

 

 

 

Lesson 1: What You Write About You Should Love

Lesson 1: What You Write About You Should Love

 

In this lesson, we will cover the important concept of writing about what you love.  Once you grasp these two simple concepts, you can begin to look deeper into your novel. It makes no difference to me if you are a pantser (a person who sits down and starts writing) or a plotter (where you outline your novel) when you begin to write.  People have different comfort levels when it comes to writing a novel, and that’s okay. You should have some basic concepts of what a novel entails, especially if you self-publish or find a publisher.

A novel should be at least 60,000 words and no more than 90,000 words. Why do publishers like a limit of 90,000 words? For two basic reasons. One: A first-time novelist may have plot problems with a longer, complex plot, and Two: It is much more expensive to print the book. Just simple ideas that may get in the way of your success. You can do whatever you want.

How I write a novel may not be the way you write a novel. That’s perfectly all right.

I write about events in the 1940s and 1950s because I love that time period.

I have a certain genre I love.

I always have a main character that I love.

I always have a sense of the story I love

I love dogs…so they are in my novels.

I’m Catholic, and some of my heroes are priests and characters who profess to be Catholic.

I like good guys to win and bad guys to lose.

I also write about things that I’m passionate about or have some information that can help me write the story.

As you can tell, I already have elements of my story included every single time.

I can’t figure out how somebody can write fantasy and create a whole new world that they never experience. I wish I could do that.

My stories tend to be sentimental, hard-boiled, detective novels. Why?  Because I like those types of characters.  I like sentimental characters when they have to be… and when the need arises… to be violent.  Kindhearted and sweet when they need to be, brutal and unforgiving when they have to be. I like to write about a person who recognizes their need for redemption. That’s because most of us are far from perfect human beings, and we need redemption.

Lesson Two; we will talk about the very start of a writer being an architect and builder: We will dive deeper into how I put a novel together.

Lesson 2: It Starts Here: Concept and Premise

Lesson 2: It Starts Here: Concept and Premise

As an Architect and Builder of a story, the very first step is figuring out your CONCEPT and PREMISE.

Your novel begins right here.

Concept and Premise

You must understand these two concepts. If you do your novel will be much easier to write.

CONCEPT

IS BUILT AROUND A UNIQUE

WHAT- IF-QUESTION

THAT CAN BE PITCHED IN

ONE TO THREE

SENTENCES

 

 

CONCEPT:   

WHAT IF A MAN CAME DOWN FROM THE HEAVENS AND PROMISED ETERNAL LIFE?

 

PREMISE

  • A protagonist whose life is interrupted or disrupted

  • Relates to a specific problem, need, or opportunity

  • Launching a quest, mission…with the desired outcome

  • Reasons or important stakes that compel the character to respond, then resolve the issues

  • In the face of opposition (which is the antagonist/entity) will oppose goals and their own motivation.

  • This calls for higher and higher or (stronger) responses and course of action, which evolve an attack on the problem.

  • Leading towards a courageous resolution resulting from the hero’s decisions and actions

  • Setting up a specific outcome

  • Thank you Larry Brooks for your Concept and Premise
Lesson 3: The Novelist is Both the Architect and the Builder of a Novel 

Lesson 3: The Novelist is Both the Architect and the Builder of a Novel 

So Much Information Out There!

 

I had a degree…I had my Masters of Science…I thought I should know how to write a novel. I certainly had read enough of them. I started to look over my favorite fiction novels and I went through them with different colored pens. Blue for narration, yellow for dialogue, green for different tags ie. he said, she said, etc., etc. I circled adverbs because they were supposed to be the evil of writing. I used purple for any information on the setting. I had the most trouble with point of view (POV). It reminded me of math….some problems I just could not grasp easily. Then after doing fifty problems and practicing I got the math and then wondered what was so hard about that math problem. Then I would look at all the different colors to try and figure out what percentage each of these was in each novel. Then I would go to scenes in each chapter. I learned to write novels this way.

The lesson I learned is this… I took too much time trying to learn how to write by listening to gurus. I spent numerous hours reading and listening to them only to understand they never gave me the answers…just enough information to get me to their up-sell. I wasted much time chasing down worthless information. I should have been tearing apart great novels and seeing how they were constructed.

I do want to tell you there is a plan all fiction stories must follow according to the genre you are writing in. No, this will not impinge on your creativity, but enhance it. You must understand that you are:

The Architect and the Builder of Your Novel 

What does that mean? Let me explain it this way. Let’s say you are constructing a new home. (A writer constructs a novel and is the architect of a novel)). An architect designs the building to adhere to zoning, building codes, material specifications, types of material, and placement. He also designs sets of plans so the builder can construct the building as the owner wants, yet follow all the rules to avoid having to tear down code violations at great cost and waste of time. Once the plans are complete the builder can build the home to the satisfaction of the owner. (The novel will have to please the reader of that genre).

So… the Architect designs the building and makes plans.

So…the Writer as an Architect uses Concept and Premise to design his book in a genre.

So… the Builder takes the Plans and Builds the home.

So…the writer then uses the same plans that every Successful Author used to write his book.

What plans are these you might ask?

Now I didn’t think up these beautiful parts of a novel that must be included in your successful novel. In fact, they have been around since people started writing, but one man put it all together in such a beautiful way; yet I still had problems following his plans because it is not easy to learn how to write fiction unless you are Larry Brooks at Story Fix.com.

Then you begin to build a story scene by scene.

 

Lesson 4: Gunny Mac Private Detective. How did I Start?

Lesson 4: Gunny Mac Private Detective. How did I Start?

As I stated in one of my earlier lessons I had a framework that I wanted to write around but I had no story. Here are those individual items I wanted to write about.

I wanted to write about events in the 1940s and 1950s because I love that time period.

I have a certain genre I love.

I always have a main character that I love.

I always have a sense of the story I love

I love dogs…so they are in my novels.

I’m Catholic, and some of my heroes are priests and characters who profess to be Catholic.

I like good guys to win and bad guys to lose.

I also write about things that I’m passionate about or have some information that can help me write the story.

As you can tell, I already have elements of my story included every single time.

I can’t figure out how somebody can write fantasy and create a whole new world that they never experience. I wish I could do that.

My stories tend to be sentimental, hard-boiled, detective novels. Why?  Because I like those types of characters.  I like sentimental characters when they have to be… and when the need arises… to be violent.  Kindhearted and sweet when they need to be, brutal and unforgiving when they have to be. I like to write about a person who recognizes their need for redemption. That’s because most of us are far from perfect human beings, and we need redemption.

So now I had to find a concept and premise that I could put these elements into and have a story.

After some research, I accidentally ran into a bit of history. Please remember I love World War II history. I found out that President Roosevelt was convinced that the First Marine Division fighting for its life on Guadalcanal was about to be defeated. He knew if Guadalcanal fell the Japanese would attack Hawaii. So he came up with a plan to collect all the currency in the islands and burn the money at two locations: at a mortuary and a sugar cane factory. He then would reissue American dollars with the word Hawaii stamped across the back of each bill. If the Japanese did invade Hawaii they could not use our currency against us.

You can still buy some of the bills with the word Hawaii stamped across the back of a bill. I also located a 500-page report written by a General during that time, which briefly discusses the burning of the money and the problems they were having in the Hawaiian Islands at that time.

Concept: What if President Roosevelt in 1942 felt he had to collect and burn all currency in Hawaii and reissue notes with Hawaii written across the back of each bill.

Premise: What if four wounded veterans are the only ones to stop gangsters, government officials, and crooked cops from stealing the money.

Bingo…I had what I needed to begin my story!

In Lesson 5 I will discuss my next steps involved in writing Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble In Chinatown.

 

 

Lesson 5: What is a Scene?

Lesson 5: What is a Scene?

 

Lesson 5 “What is a scene?

I will use the beginning scene in my third novel Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble in Tomahawk Gap as an example.

We shall use some scenes from my novel Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble in Chinatown to illustrate what a scene should do in Lesson 6

PS. This is not a scene!

What is the purpose of a scene? It has only one main job…to drive the story forward!!! If it doesn’t move the story along what is its purpose?

Forget it kid…forget the scene… UNLESS…it does one or several of the actions listed below.

  • Introduce action

  • A reaction to an event

  • Introduce a character

  • Character development

  • Establish mood

  • Set the stage…the setting.

  • Show an inciting incident

  • Intensify a conflict.

I’m going to make this simple because I’m a simple guy…give me some bourbon and a cigar and a good radio to listen to a baseball game and you have a scene my personal scene.

Just joking…a scene has a beginning, a middle, and an end.

If you start a scene with me sitting on my porch, smoking a cigar, and listening to a baseball game you might bore someone to death if that’s all that happens.

Let’s flesh it out using the above points. The man sitting on the porch is the protagonist…at this point, the reader doesn’t know this. He’s a retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant who raises horses in Colorado.( Introducing the setting)

Gunnery Sergeant Mac is searching for peace after being wounded on Iwo Jima. (Introducing the main character)

He is relaxing after a hard day working with his horses (establish the mood)

Up the pine-covered hillside in front of him, he hears a shot and a man comes tumbling down the side of the hill. (Showing an inciting incident.)

He grabs his rifle and runs toward the man. When he draws near and sees the man; he realizes it’s one of his former Marines. (Intensifies a potential conflict)

The wounded man says something to him and dies. (Leaving the reader hooked and wanting to read the next chapter).

Wow! This is the beginning of my third novel.

But ladies and gentlemen is that easy or what? It is this simple to set up a scene.

Do you have to have all these points …no…depends on what you need the scene to accomplish for your story.

What is the purpose of this scene…you probably can figure that out quickly. All I have to do now is flesh it out. Does it have a great ending? Yes, the man dies as he is telling the protagonist something important that sets the stage for the rest of the book.

Now on to Lesson 6 where we will see some scenes from my published novel Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble in Chinatown.