Exercising Your Creativity: Tools and Examples to Use for Creating a well-written Scene
Junior Bellé is a Brazilian journalist who writes in Widbook‘s blog weekly on tips and tools to help your writing. Here, he offers an exercise on writing the scenes of a book.
I was reading the Book II of Dune, Frank Herbert’s masterpiece, and wondering about the realm of inventiveness. “This book will be forever considered a triumph of the imagination,” is written on the back cover. Arthur C. Clarke also reviewed the book and averred: “Unique… I know nothing comparable to it except Lord of The Rings.” As far as I already read, I aver as well.
Besides the remarkable plot, Herbert is a master in constructing a sequence of scenes. He manages the narrative as a cameraman, and after an overview he brings us to a close. Then the strophes run as a camera running along a rail, offering the reader a bit of action. David Lynch twigged the image’s power of Dune and turned it into a movie in 1984.
All of this being said, only the author can feel when a change is needed in a storyline. The intercalation of different vantage points is necessary to avoid the tedious, when the tedious is not the objective, of course.
In general, there are four elements of a scene: time, space, continuity and viewpoints. Every one of these elements, and indeed the latter, might vary in text. The author can decide whether to write in the first person (a character as a narrator), second person (when a character narrates through the speech of other character) or third person (restrictive or omniscient). As an author, you can be creative and offer your readers interesting dialogues, flashbacks, actions, digressions and anything else you would like.
A cool exercise to try out different perspectives of scenes is to imagine them and then write a brief scene in which two really contradictory characters interact. A boss and an employee, a butcher and a cow, a torturer and a tortured, a millionaire and a beggar, a banker and an anarchist, for example. Then, write two different narratives, each in a specific character viewpoint (or only one text varying between both). Try to think about the details, imagine the environment; a motivation that guided both characters to interact. And have fun with it! If you feel comfortable, you can publish what you’ve got here on Widbook to gain insight and feedback from other members. I would love to read and exchange impressions with you.
Below are some short scenes for you to draw inspiration:
Dune, by Frank Herbert
“Now was the moment to go exploring. Paul slipped out of the bed, headed for the bookcase door that opened into the closet. He stopped at a sound behind him, turned. The carved headboard of the bed was folding down onto the spot where he had been sleeping. Paul froze, and immobility saved his life.”
The Perfect Storm, by Sebastian Junger
“The body could be likened to a crew that resorts to increasingly desperate measures to keep their vessel afloat. Eventually the last wire has shorted out, the last bit of decking has settled under the water.”
The Magic Mountain, by Thomas Mann
“Yet there was a momentary hint of blue sky, and even this bit of light was enough to release a flash of diamonds across the wide landscape, so oddly disfigured by its snowy adventure. Usually the snow stopped at that hour of the day, as if for a quick survey of what had been achieved thus far; the rare days of sunshine seemed to serve much the same purpose — the flurries died down and the sun’s direct glare attempted to melt the luscious, pure surface of drifted new snow. It was a fairy-tale world, child-like and funny. Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows, so fluffy someone must have plumped them up; the ground a series of humps and mounds, beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden; a landscape of crouching, cowering gnomes in droll disguises — it was comic to behold, straight out of a book of fairy tales. But if there was something roguish and fantastic about the immediate vicinity through which you laboriously made your way, the towering statues of snow-clad Alps, gazing down from the distance, awakened in you feelings of the sublime and holy.”
A Dead Hand, by Paul Theroux
“She went lower, her hands and lips — multiple mouths — taking possession of me, not giving what I wanted, but offering urgent promises. She anticipated what I wanted, which was a pleasure beyond desire, something like a refinement of gluttony, sucking the life from me, all the while soothing me with a satisfied purring in her throat.”
Araby, by James Joice
“Her image accompanied me even in places the most hostile to romance. On Saturday evenings when my aunt went marketing I had to go to carry some of the parcels. We walked through the flaring streets, jostled by drunken men and bargaining women, amid the curses of labourers, the shrill litanies of shop-boys who stood on guard by the barrels of pigs’ cheeks, the nasal chanting of street-singers, who sang a come-all-you about O’Donovan Rossa, or a ballad about the troubles in our native land. These noises converged in a single sensation of life for me: I imagined that I bore my chalice safely through a throng of foes. Her name sprang to my lips at moments in strange prayers and praises which I myself did not understand. My eyes were often full of tears (I could not tell why) and at times a flood from my heart seemed to pour itself out into my bosom. I thought little of the future. I did not know whether I would ever speak to her or not or, if I spoke to her, how I could tell her of my confused adoration. But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”