Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Challenge: Making Scenes into a Story

Last spring, for a creative writing class, our assignment was to write six brief scenes:  three each from the point of view of two different characters.  We were supposed to write from the point of view of character A observing character B, while character B did three different daily activities.  Then we did the same thing from the point of view of character B observing character A while character A did three more daily activities.

This was a fun exercise, but these short, unconnected pieces have been languishing on my computer for awhile now.  So I had a bright idea:  can I weave these six unconnected scenes into a story?  Is it possible?

At first, I thought this would be easy.  The scenes feature the same two characters, so all I'd have to do is weave the daily activities into some logical sequence, right?  Easy peasy.

Well, it would have been nice if it worked out like that.  But it didn't.  It's taking a lot more massaging and rewriting to get the scenes to flow.  It's a really fun challenge, though--it forces you to smooth rough edges and really think about scene order and how you can arrange them to build to some sort of emotional awareness and climax.  Of course, I made it more difficult for myself by writing scenes that end mostly happily, while most of the stories I write end on a decidedly morbid or depressing note.  That's what's taking most of the revising time.  I have to correct for tone in each scene as I weave it in with the others.  The cool thing is that now I have an entirely new story to play with.

If you have a little spare time, give it a try--write six random half-page scenes featuring the same two characters, with three each from a particular character's point of view.  Choose activities to describe that are mundane:  washing hair, watering plants, making the bed, feeding the dog, watching the news, cooking dinner, cleaning a bathroom, etc.  Then let them sit for awhile.  As you think about the characters and what they might mean to each other, think about what you want to say through those characters.  How is their simple, everyday interaction leading to a larger truth?  Then have at it--mash those scenes into a story!