Tag Archives for " Obligatory Scenes "
Dindi is kidnapped to be the bride of a shark... To escape she must untangle a terrible curse caused by a love and magic gone wrong.
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I’ve been reading The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne. It’s a meaty book on writing, from the point of view of an editor who has an eye for highly popular, commercially successful books.
His method is similar to Scott Bell’s Save the Cat outlining method, and since I’m a fan of that, I found this highly useful as well. My biggest takeaway is the concept that any given Genre has certain Obligatory Scenes along with its usual conventions.
For instance, he lists the Obligatory Scenes for a Mystery. My order is a little different than his, and I’ve added my own nicknames to the steps:
In a Medical Drama, like House, the Obligatory Scenes are exactly the same, but the “criminal” is a disease and the “detective” is the diagnostic doctor. The “suspects” are not being accused of a crime, but they are people who must be interrogated to find clues about the true identity of the mystery disease. As in any other mystery, many of the suspects lie to protect themselves for various reasons, leading to red herrings.
For Horror, he lists these Obligatory Scenes:
Thrillers, he says, are a combination of both these kinds of Obligatory Scenes.
Those are the genres he’s most familiar with, so unfortunately, he doesn’t give his take on other genres more of interest to me, such as Romance, Fantasy, or Science Fiction. So I’ll try my own hand at it.
For Science Fiction/Fantasy we’d need:
Hm. I’m not sure if those are really Obligatory Scenes, in the same way that “Hero At the Mercy of the Villain” is a scene. I think there’s a real danger in both fantasy and science fiction of making those “telling” rather than “showing” scenes. Hence, the dreaded infodump: a pitfall for any novel, but speculative fiction especially. It is better if each of the above Obligatory features of sff are crafted as scenes.
If many of the usual scenes one might expect are missing, it’s because we often conflate Fantasy (especially) with a Quest plot. A Quest plot or an Epic plot has its own Obligatory Scenes and conventions, such as the Search for the McGuffin or Acquiring the McGuffin, the Final Stand Against Evil, etc.
But not all Fantasy, and certainly not all Science Fiction, involves a Quest or need be Epic in scale. I do think all fantasy & sf, even odd forms such as Literary Fantasy/SF, need to have the five features I’ve listed.
I’ll give Romance a shot. I think it’s easier, ironically, because there are more strict requirements.
Just as Coyne says you can figure up the Obligatory Scenes for a Thriller by combining Mystery, Action, and Horror requirements, so you can figure out the Obligatory Scenes you’d need for a Paranormal Romance by combining the Fantasy and Romance requirements.
For instance, you still have a Cute Meet, but it should also let the reader know that magic exists in this world. (For instance, she finds a lamp and a sexy, overpowering Genie appears, offering to be service her every whim; or she is a werewolf hunter saved from a werewolf ambush by a mysterious hunk.) You will still need an External or an Internal problem, and it should be caused by magic. (For instance, the Genie despises her for enslaving him, but she has no way to free him from the spell; he doesn’t want to tell her that he’s a werewolf too.)
Knowing the Obligatory Scenes is not the same as having an outline for a novel. Not even close. These are simply the minimum requirements needed to center a novel within a certain genre.
Buy The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know by Shawn Coyne