The Daily Journal, Wednesday, March 13

In today’s Journal

▪ Welcome and today in “Of Interest”
▪ Topic: What Is a Scene?
▪ Update on my challenge
▪ Daily diary
▪ Of Interest
▪ The numbers

Welcome to our newest subscriber, Judy M. Thanks for coming along for the ride, Judy. Tell Ron W. I miss his tired old self. (grin) (By the way, most of my Journal entries aren’t quite as long as this one. You picked a good day to start.)

Today in “Of Interest” John Gilstrap (at TKZ) talks about what constitutes a scene. He has an interesting take, and he asked readers what we thought.

I responded, and that led to today’s topic.

There’s also a great first page critique with good advice re using a child as the POV character, a thought-provoking story (or series) idea, and then something just for fun.

Topic: What Is a Scene?

For me, defining “scene” is easy. For some, not so much.

I think it was Ray Bradbury who said (for him) a new scene occurs each time there’s a new camera angle. I’m fortunate in that I “see” every new setting and scene in that way too. For that reason, for me, every new setting holds a scene.

But how we see a scene isn’t important. What matters is that we can see (hear, smell, taste, feel) a scene through the POV character’s senses and opinions and transfer that to the page. Nothing on the page should come from the writer. Every word, every bit of punctuation, everything should be filtered through the current POV character.

Bestselling thriller author John Gilstrap in a recent blog post (see “Of Interest”) made the point that screenwriters don’t have available to them all the tools novelists have.

It’s interesting, too, that we DO have available techniques that film directors often use: that ability to visualize the scene.

My minor scenes are usually transitory as the POV character moves between major settings and scenes, and for me, a major setting and scene (combined usually with one or two minor scenes) comprise a chapter.

So what is a minor scene? Most of mine are transitory. They exist only to move the POV character from one major scene to another without him magically appearing there.

A transitory minor scene might be the POV character moving from a taxi cab into a building. He won’t notice much, so there won’t be a lot of description. (Remember, all setting description is filtered through the POV character.) After all, what’s to notice about a sidewalk and the façade of a building, for example (unless it holds something important to the story)?

Likewise, some minor scenes are only implied, meaning they aren’t written on the page at all. For example, the POV character getting from the lobby of the building into an elevator, out of the elevator on the relevant floor and into the office where the major scene will take place).

For example, maybe while he’s in the lobby he finds (or heads toward) the elevator. The next paragraph would open the next major scene as he arrives at his destination.

But when we talk about scenes, most often we’re talking about what I call “major” scenes.

My major scenes are all around 800 – 1200 words, with that number sometimes sliding upward depending on the characters and what action is occurring.

My major scenes usually begin with a quick but in-depth description the new setting, to ground (or include) the reader, interspersed with dialogue (if necessary), whatever action occurs, etc.

But Gilstrap was right. Major scenes are so diverse, they’re difficult to explain. Let me try with two quick examples:

1. If the office belongs to the POV character, the lights are off and there’s an assailant waiting, there won’t be a lot of dialogue (or any) at the beginning, and any in-depth description of that setting probably took place in an earlier scene.

In that case, during the action or after the action is resolved, only minor description would be required to reground the reader.

2. If the POV character is arriving in his office for the first time in that novel, a more in-depth description of the office is necessary (to pull the reader into the office too).

In that case, if the office is dark and an assailant is waiting, the in-depth description will take place intermittently, some during the action and most (probably) after the action is over.

This is only two of literally hundreds or thousands (or millions) of possibilities for that one scene.

And that’s why I’m glad I write off into the dark. (grin)

Imagine how much more dull the scene would be if I planned everything in advance and forced it on my character rather than just allowing the story to unfold in its own time.

When the POV character steps out of the taxi cab, I don’t know what he’ll see or smell or otherwise sense on his way into the building until he senses it and it comes out through my fingers into the keyboard.

As he steps out of the elevator and reaches for the doorknob to his office, I don’t know what’s about to ensue either. And if I don’t know in advance what’s going to happen, my readers can’t possibly know.

Which leads me back to another Bradbury quote: If you don’t surprise yourself, how can you hope to surprise the reader?

So there’s one thing we can probably all agree on: Scenes, and by extension, whole stories, are mind-boggling to explain, but a ton of fun to write. (grin)

At this point, I was going to point you to other, older blog posts on writing setting and scenes. Then I realized those posts are now marked “private,” meaning only I can view them.

For a short while, I’ve marked those two posts public so you can read them if you want. If you read them, you will be reading Chapter 6 of my book, Writing the Character-Driven Story.

Consider it a free “look inside” at that book. And if you decide you want the book, you can find it at

As you know, my current challenge was to write 10 novels in 150 days.

It faltered when I had the happy life roll of all three of my adult sons visiting at once. That too is a rare occurrence and one I wasn’t willing to miss. The challenge faltered.

So I’m calling the original challenge ended, and also a limited success. I did stay on track, writing 4 novels in 60 days. During that time I had only two non–fiction-writing days. So either way, that’s a win.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll begin a new challenge. Again it will be to write 10 novels, and again in 150 days. The target dates will be 15 days apart. Again, if I finish early, I’ll have days in the bank. If I finish late, I’ll pull days from the bank.

In a challenge like this, what matters is the average.

When I come out the other side, if I’m successful, I will have written 10 new novels, amd 51 novels over all.

Wish me luck. (grin)

Oh, and yes, I’m still going camping for two or three days beginning on the 16th. But I’ll take Hal2 with me and try to get one or two thousand words done per day while I’m camping too. We’ll see. (grin) As I won’t have internet access, I’ll pre-post a few Journal entries for the days that I’m gone.

I rolled out this morning at my usual time of 3 a.m. I didn’t waste any time during the first few hours, but I did do a lot of admin stuff, including writing all the stuff above, adding some links to my Books2Read account, etc.

For just one example of “admin stuff,” when I looked initially, the link to Writing the Character-Driven Story went to only two vendors. Now it goes to several, as it should.

I still need to finalize the cover for Blackwell Ops 4 and publish it, and I still need to add my last three Blackwell Ops books and my last mystery to my website too. And I need to update my publisher website.

Amazing how easy it is to fall behind. I’ll get started on all of that this afternoon.

Up to the house for a break at 5:40. My eldest son ended up staying one more night, so part of the morning will be devoted to saying goodbye to him as he begins his trek back to Indiana. I don’t envy him going back there at this time of year.

I finally opened the WIP at just before 9 a.m. To get back into it, I read it through again, but it just doesn’t excite me anymore. So I’m setting it aside. Thankfully, this is a rare occurrence for me. I’m glad it happened only 8,000 words in.

It feels strange to do this right in the middle of a challenge, but it is what it is. So I used my usual writing time today to upgrade my Hovel. This afternoon I’ll update my websites. So no fiction writing again today. But tomorrow morning I’ll start a new novel.

In related news, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing a spinoff series from Blackwell Ops while also continuing the Blackwell Ops series.

But the new series will involve at least two current BO characters, so I have to write another BO novel first that will also serve as the basis for the spinoff. I think I’ll do that.

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “Scene Construction” at

See “First Page Critique: From the Mouths of Babes” at

See “Doctors Are Using Hospital ‘Robots’…” at

For fun, see “Offline” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1630 (Journal)
Total words for the day: 1630

Writing of Blackwell Ops 5: (novel)

Day 1…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 23080
Total fiction words for the year………… 182138
Total nonfiction words for the month… 10440
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 61660
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 243798

Calendar Year 2019 Novels to Date………………………… 4
Calendar Year 2019 Novellas to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2019 Short Stories to Date……… X
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 41
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31