I actually read this book twenty years ago—and remembered nothing from it. But it was full of my underlining and border notes in my handwriting, so I definitely read it.
The late Jack Bickham wrote 75 novels (two of which were made into films) and six books on the craft of fiction. He understands how to write a story.
Yet, as I was rereading this book over the course of more than a year, I found myself resisting much of what Bickham expounds. For example, Bickham says every scene must end with a disaster. I rejected that idea, because many of my scenes don’t and I couldn’t picture what would have to happen to follow that convention.
Then I read Children of Blood and Bone. Every scene in Children of Blood and Bone ends with a crisis. (Except maybe one.) And I couldn’t put CoB&B down. The pacing was so fast. The problems were so compelling.
So I began to take Scene and Structure more seriously.
Some of the terms in S&S I’d seen before, but I thought they meant something different. For example, I thought a scene goal was the author’s goal for the scene. It’s actually the viewpoint character’s goal for the scene. I suppose I would have known that if I’d majored in creative writing in college instead of music education.
Here are some points I learned from Scene and Structure:
Scene and Structure covers much more related to writing the novel, including suggestions on how to create a master plot for your book, and an appendix of excerpts of published novels illustrating some of the concepts introduced in S&S.
This was not an easy book to read. I often had to read sections over and over to understand them. I don’t know if my confusion was the fault of the author or of my own limited intelligence. However, I will be reading this book again, and filtering my manuscript-in-progress through all the bullet points listed. I would recommend Scene and Structure for authors who are not satisfied with their own work but don’t know what’s wrong with it: you may have structural deficiencies.
Who doesn’t want to be a fiction author? You get to create your own worlds and the people who live there. Then you dream up plots that push them to their limits. It’s like being a benign (or maybe evil) despot.
It’s also one of the hardest jobs there is. Sometimes the words on the page fall short of the scene you envision. Sometimes you get stuck in the middle without any clue how to get your characters to the end of the story—even if you know how your story ends.
Luckily, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here are some ideas from some of the most creative writers on the internet. (Click on the links to see the articles.)