Easy as ABC

I continue to learn from reading and listening to Eric Witchey. I know I’ve posted his You Tube video before but I glean something new every time I watch it. This time, he helped me grok a scene with my antagonist. That something comes from what he terms the “ABCs” of a scene.

  • Agenda,
  • Backstory,
  • Conflict, and
  • setting (I add senses to this as well)

You’re probably an old hand at writing fiction, if so, this stuff is now embedded in your DNA and the muscle memory of your brain. Not me. I kept having trouble with a scene between the hero and the villain. I finally realized that I had been only looking at the hero’s agenda; what he wanted. His assumption was that he would be fired from his job by the new boss. My previous drafts had been written with the antagonist acting this way. Once I realized the villian had a completely different goal, the scene became less predictable and more interesting (I think). For me, it was an ah ha moment or as a friend of mine calls it, “a blinding flash of the obvious.”

Jack Bickham, in his book Scene and Structure, outlines a scene as:
• Statement of goal (which should relate to the story question)
• Conflict developed in attempt to reach goal
• Failure to reach goal
• Repetition of attempt to reach goal/failure
• Goal reached/not reached
• Twist or tactical disaster

Bickham’s advice is good. The first two points are essentially Agenda and Conflict. Witchey adds Backstory, because that is what underlies the motives of each character, and setting to give the scene sensory depth.

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