Setting the Scene

Laurie Hertzel in her talk on crafting scenes in feature writing lists six  tips for creating scenes in narrative articles. I found myself drawn to two of Hertzel’s tips in particular. She suggests that writers should move their stories backwards and forwards through time. Often, a scene progresses chronologically from beginning to middle to end. Hertzel challenges aspiring writers to play with this chronological order, as long as one does not loss the reader. Including flashbacks or glimpses of the present can give context to the scene. Hertzel also advises writers to learn how to end scenes. I am a long-winded writer, and so I sometimes drag out the scene with too many details. Learning how to end the scene while making the reader want to read more would make my stories more readable.

While Hertzel presents some new tips for crafting scenes, she also reaffirms some of the styling that I am already implementing in my writing. She mentions transitioning from scene to summary.

Here’s an example from my profile “The Balancing Act:”

He teaches by example, stepping gracefully up onto the line in one movement. Like a tightrope walker, he carefully places one barefoot in front of the other and spreads his outstretched hands to his sides to steady himself. Seven months after buying a slack line, Sandi crosses the entire length of the line in twenty steps.

“There’s no secret,” Sandi said smiling. “Just pure practice.”

Sandi’s life is a lot like his slacklining: a balancing act between classes and his job as a Resident Advisor; his life here and his life back home in Bolivia; staying on his current life trajectory and discovering his deeper purpose in life.

Hertzel also suggests writers vary the pace of the story.

Here’s an example of this from “The Balancing Act:”

[This ends the article after a large section about Nico’s search for purpose on a backpacking trip in Patagonia this summer.]

And as we stood talking before the slack line, Nico affirmed his sister’s description.

When a girl fell off the slack line, Nico was quick to ask if she was OK.

After all, Nico is still learning to balance himself.

And he’ll keep practicing his balancing act on Friday afternoons, even when it snows.

“Just wear your boots,” he said.

Though many of Hertzel’s tips are implementable, I do not understand the idea of writing with a camera angle. I feel that if one writes from this angle they will only capture what they see from their perspective. Writers should use others’ perspectives as well to set the scene.

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One response to “Setting the Scene”

  1. lhertzel says :

    Yes, you can use others’ perspectives. Think of different people behind the camera. But they still need to know if they are using a close-up lens or a wide-angle. Good luck with your work.

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