Saturday, October 13, 2012

Cause and Effect

One of my favorite writing books is called Scene & Structure by Jack Bickham. It's not a particularly thick book, but it's all about "how to construct fiction with scene-by-scene flow, logic and readability."

In other words, it's about the nuts and bolts of writing a good story. And Bickham spends a lot of the book explaining how most books that don't "work" have a problem with cause and effect.

Cause and effect are simple, basic things. We all know about them. This happens and then that happens as a result. Nothing overly complex about that, right?

Bickham doesn't think so. In fact, he takes nearly 170 pages (in the edition I have) to explain how it works. (In fairness, about 1/3 of it is appendices with examples.) This book explains cause and effect thoroughly -- and by thoroughly, I mean thoroughly... starting with the simplest action and proceeding through individual scenes, chapters, and finally the complete plot. He not only explains the structure of well-written scenes, but he explains:
  • how to link scenes
  • how to control pace
  • how to vary the structure of scenes for variety or effect
and even how to use scenes themselves as a structure to help you create plots.

Next week I'm going to do a couple of posts about cause and effect because, although it sounds so basic, it makes plotting so much easier. I've come to believe that a huge number of plotting problems are simply a matter of not paying attention to "what happens next?" closely enough. If we lose control of the causes and effects in our writing, we end up confused and our stories make no sense.

And when you're writing for kids, you need to make sure that your story makes sense or they'll stop reading.

Class starts Monday. ;-)

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