Writing Notes: Serial Scenes, Deconstructed

Today’s topic is about creating
serial scenes – scenes that are meant to be served up one at a
time, with a certain amount of time passing before the reader gets
another. It’s the same basic premise as a TV series, just on a
smaller scale.

I lay out my scenes in three parts:

– Orientation

– Plot

– Cliffhanger/Twist

Orientation is the beginning of the
scene, where you have a very small amount of time to re-orient the
reader into the overall story. You don’t need this in a normal
scene, because presumably the reader has been reading continuously,
or can simply flip back a page or two for the information. Online
readers want to just jump right back in though, so I help them by
giving them an orientation line at the beginning. This also helps a
new reader who stumbles into a story already in progress. Join me as
I show Alex, one of my alter-egos, how to accomplish this (she’s
working on her first serial novel).

After the reader is re-oriented in the
story, the action moves forward as it normally would (plot). It
builds up to the last few lines, when something needs to happen that
will bring the reader back for the next installment. This is the
Cliffhanger, and it has the potential to make your readers
practically salivate for the next installment. They may want to throw
things at you as well if you make them wait too long, so stay behind
the computer screen if at all possible.

A good cliffhanger is a plot twist –
something the reader didn’t see coming. It adds conflict, and cuts
off just when the reader things she’s going to get “the good
stuff”. When I can’t stand to stop writing because I simply
*must* know what happens next, that’s where I cut my readers off,
so long as it’s near the natural end of a scene.

Cliffhangers work in every scene –
not just serial scenes. They are a valuable device, so long as you
don’t use one in place of “The End” in a genre where they
aren’t commonly used. I guarantee you’ll be lynched if you use
one at the end of a romance novel.

Writers – how do you construct your
scenes? Any tips to share?

Readers – do you notice when a scene
eases you back into the story? How do you feel about cliffhangers?

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2 comments on “Writing Notes: Serial Scenes, Deconstructed

  1. Carol

    Very nicely put! I think you’re having way too much fun with these movies, but it was a much better way of getting your point across than just writing it down. 🙂

  2. Jamie DeBree

    Thanks Carol. We’re a multi-media world now…thought I’d better at least try to keep up. 😉

    Which is my justification for playing with characters on screen when I’m not writing them down. LOL