Today, I'm concluding with a short talk on how those same TV shows can help writers develop their "commercial breaks" in fiction. What are fiction's commercial breaks?
Chapter and scene endings.
Just like TV writers need to hook viewers to keep them waiting through commercial breaks to see what happens next, fiction writers need to write riveting chapter and scene endings so that readers will want to flip the page to the next chapter or hurdle their eyes over white space to rush to the next scene.
Make those commercial breaks count...
In The TV Writer's Workbook: A Creative Approach to Television Scripts, writer Ellen Sandler states that a scene needs a narrative structure and that this structure contains three interconnected elements: the setup (beginning), the power switch or turning point (middle), and the arrow (end). The arrow is what I want to focus on here.
When I edit stories, and this is something I've said in previous BRP posts, too, one thing I tend to focus on is how well chapters and scenes end. Sandler states that the arrow is "the element that drives you to the next scene" (p. 118), and in writing further about scenes, she states, "Each scene should have a compelling reason to move on to the next one. We want to see how your Central Character recovers if he lost power, or we're waiting to see if he can keep it if he gained power. That's what keeps your audience hooked in, and that's essential in a TV show" (pp. 119-120).
I would say this is essential in fiction, too.
Which of these scenarios would compel and propel you to read the next scene?
- Scenario 1: In this scene, the main character is having an argument with her friend, and the scene concludes with that argument ending.
- Scenario 2: In this scene, the main character is still having an argument with her friend, and though the argument concludes, the end of the scene focuses on how this argument ties into the central conflict of the story, either providing a sense of angst or a sense of joy for the main character moving forward.
More often than not, I see the former scenario presented in earlier drafts, and an edit of that scene wouldn't necessarily be a major overhaul. What the writer could do is go back and consider the story's purpose, the main conflict, the minor conflicts, and ask, "How does this scene tie into the central conflict of the story for the main character?" An answer to that question can aid in developing a scene ending that is strong, that will make a reader see the white space at the end of that scene and want, need, to move on to see what happens next.
Think about when you're watching a great TV show (right now, I'm smiling and thinking about Fox's reboot of 24), and the show cuts away to a commercial, and you're left groaning and frustrated as you yell, "These commercials need to hurry up. I need to see what happens next."
Yeah. Make your readers feel that way about your story as its scenes and chapters conclude.
Do you think about TV shows/writing when you're developing your novels? Do other forms of media help you to write your books?
Sandler, E. (2007). The TV writer's workbook: A creative approach to television scripts. New York, NY: Bantam Dell.
|Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her author website, and you can get information about her editorial services at CLG Entertainment.|