Updated: Dec 24, 2022
Although I've been writing for 16 years, I am constantly striving to hone my craft. I think it's so important to grow as an author no matter where you are on your journey - aspiring or published - so you can continue to build on your successes!
One thing I've learned this week is the importance of individual scenes.
Each scene is like a mini story. You want to grab your reader with a hook as much as possible (I'm guilty of not always doing this, but if you've left your reader hungry after the last scene, that's okay). The scene should ALWAYS end with some sort of mini cliffhanger.
What about in between?
Well, my friend, there are two types of scenes. One is an "action" scene. The other is a "response" scene. You want to take your reader through an emotional roller coaster, so you should have plenty of action scenes, but also have breathers in between to give your character time to reflect. If you're writing YA fantasy, you really have to ramp up the emotions your teen protagonist's feeling.
In either an action or response scene, your character should have a very clear goal. So clear, that the reader should know when the character's achieved it. For example, "Arrys just wants to be happy" is NOT a good goal since that's not tangible and we don't really know when he's achieved it. But, "Arrys needs to find a way to escape the Twelve Tribes' encampment, despite all the shaimans guarding the valley" is a tangible goal.
For your action scenes, you can either let your character fail to achieve their goal, or temporarily succeed - only to face a new obstacle. There should always be some sort of new obstacle in their way. The cadence of your entire novel is: goal > obstacle > goal > obstacle, and individual action scenes will help you do this.
In The Last Phoenix, which I'm currently writing, Arrys is prisoner of the shaiman tribes. His goal is: "I must find a way to escape." But then, the lord of the shaimans shows him a shocking truth about the Four Kingdoms - and his own family - which forces him to reconsider who his enemies really are. He failed to find a way to escape, and he has a new obstacle. This will leave the reader wanting to know what happens next. (As opposed to a flat resolution, which will turn off your reader quickly.)
For your response scenes, let your character brood, be in angst, or otherwise just bathe in their feelings, but there should be some sort of "next step" or "reawakened drive" by the end. A decision must be made.
To use another example in Phoenix, when Act II opens, Arrys is emotionally messed up. Like, REALLY messed up. To illustrate his level of stress (show, don't tell!), he starts doing the opposite of what he would ever do when he's healthy - he gets drunk and pays a visit to the brothel. During the chapter, he broods and banters with the girl he's slept with. BUT, by the end of the scene, something happens that reinvigorates his drive to achieve his next most sensible goal.
* Your novel should follow the cadence of goal > obstacle > goal > obstacle.
* There are two kinds of scenes: action and response.
* Your scenes are mini stories within your story.
* Your action scenes follow this shortened cadence: goal > take action to achieve it > new obstacle comes up OR they fail to achieve it
* For response scenes, the cadence is: emotional reaction/reflection > something that sparks your character to get back up > a new decision is made OR they find renewed fortitude
What are the biggest challenges you find with writing your own fantasy scenes?