Review by David Ploskonka

I reaScreen Shot 2016-03-19 at 6.05.26 PMd a lot of books on writing. My nightstand almost always has one or two books from the library about how to write a better novel, better characters, better anything. And I’ll tell you what – most of them are terrible. If I had a dollar for every book chockfull of bad advice or painful clichés, I could buy my own publishing house.

But that is precisely why I get so excited when I find one that is good. And let me tell you, I’ve found a good one.

The Scene Book: A Primer for The Fiction Writer by Sandra Scofield is jewel: detailed, concise, practical, and full of great examples. Scene Book explains that every good piece of fictional writing requires good scenes. Its central premise is that to write a good scene you must understand the following:

  • Every scene has an EVENT
  • Every scene has a FUNCTION and a FOCAL POINT
  • Every scene has a STRUCTURE
  • Every scene has a PULSE

The author then unpacks all of this over the course of 14 chapters. Each of these chapters include instruction, actual scene examples, and analysis of what works in those scenes, making each chapter a mini-course in scene construction. Scofield even has the best explanation of the differences between conflict and tension that I’ve ever seen.

Most of the scene examples come from the “literary” genre and include examples by people like Raymond Carver, Richard Stone, and Joy Williams. While I love these writers, this is not what I write. But no matter—I found the examples elucidating enough that I did not need them to match my genre of choice. Whether I am writing or revising, I find myself reaching for The Scene Book over and over to help me out of jams. I fully recommend it!

Table of Contents Below
Part One

The Scene Primer:

  • The Basics (Ch. 1)
  • Event and Meaning (Ch. 2)
  • Beats (Ch. 3)
  • The Focal Point (Ch. 4)

Part Two

  • The Heart of a Scene: Pulse (Ch. 5)
  • Tension (Ch. 6)
  • Negotiation (Ch. 7)
  • Images (Ch. 8)

Part Three

  • Some Useful Scene Skills: Scene Activity and Character Response (Ch. 9)
  • Scene Openings (Ch. 10)
  • Big Scenes (Ch. 11).

Part Four

  • Moving to Independent Study: Reading for Story and Scene (Ch. 12)
  • Evaluation (Ch. 13)
  • Scenarios (Ch. 14).Sample Scenes

    Further Reading

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