I remember a post once that said you can’t break down all the pieces of a story and line them back up again, like you would the building blocks of a castle (can you tell I have young boys who like Lego?). The reason is that the elements of a story overlap. Each scene accomplishes multiple goals. The first scene especially. Let’s look at a sample first line:
The man in the torn coat strode toward the army checkpoint.
A single line, but it helps develop plot, character, and tension all at the same time. To tackle each element, for example with a single sentence each, would be too clunky. You need to multi-task (please don’t tell my wife I’m capable of such! It would shatter her world view…).
So in the last few days, based on some new word processing skills, I have to admit to loving overlapping circles, as shown below. So I thought I’d help use them to make this point. And also do some work on my new short story at the same time. The circles are the elements that I want to incorporate in my first scene, to make the story start off well. See the image below to see how I worked through the exercise:
Just filling in circles won’t give you the answers on how to accomplish all the things you want, but it will certainly point out things you’re missing, and get the good old hind brain working on how to fix it.
I have found that it’s good to put some thought into what you want to achieve before you start the first draft of a scene. Partly because those words, once written, seem to solidify on the page, at least for me, becoming brittle and harder to change with each day that passes. It’s easier to get it right the first time. Or at least try.
And let’s face it, those circles are pretty. Aren’t they? 🙂
…really, please don’t tell my wife I can multi-task.
As always, images are copyright. Please link to, but don’t steal them…