* scenes

Posted by Lew Weinstein on May 27, 2012

missing “scenes” in Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

·     Some of the most interesting scenes in Scaramouche are the ones that aren’t there.   ·     Sabatini often skips the scene you expect to see. None of the duels, except that with the Marquis, are portrayed. Thus Sabatini avoids what would be repetition and holds the reader’s anticipation of a dueling scene until the last and most important.   ·     Andre-Louis’s entrance into Paris in the midst of chaotic street fighting is also not shown. How did he get past the guards? Did anyone question him? Likewise, the leaving of Paris, first by the Marquis, then by Andre-Louis with Aline and Mme. de Plougastel, become past events, never shown “live.” … Why?   ·     One also looks in vain for a real love scene between Andre-Louis and Aline where either’s emotions are shown rather than merely stated or even hinted at.

“scenes” in The Instrument by John O’Hara

·     Ch 3 begins with a long transitional narrative (over 2 pages) telling what has happened in the few months since Ch 2 ended. This is lazy. It would have been more effective to work whatever was essential into the ensuing action.   ·     O’Hara’s abrupt transitions to new immediate action work much better. “They were in Boston.” “The New York opening was an ordeal and a delight.” “The house was at the edge of the village of East Hammond …”

“scenes” in The Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Reverte

·     exposition … long, detailed descriptions and lists of old books, which the reader can’t possibly read and absorb. what is the purpose?  ·     transitions … the reader is suddenly transported from Fargas’ home in Portugal to Paris, with no transition. The details of this change of scene are presented later (187-88). Does this work? It’s a technique similar to what Tolstoy does repeatedly in Anna Karenina.

“scenes” in Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

sequence of scenes in Ch 22-29 (the horse race)  ·  Vronsky sees Anna at Peterhof. She tells him she is pregnant. ·  Vronsky leaves, returns to Petersburg and prepares for the race. ·  He sees Karenin arrive at the racetrack but avoids looking at Anna, who is also there. ·  The race is run. Vronsky breaks the horse’s back. The horse is shot. ·  Tolstoy then makes an abrupt return to earlier that day. Karenin is in his office, thinking of Anna and Vronsky. A doctor tells him he is not well, needs to relax. ·  He drives to Peterhof to see Anna. They speak past each other. She invites him to come back for dinner, even though Vronsky is also coming. ·  Karenin and Anna go separately to the racetrack. ·  Karenin watches Anna as she watches Vronsky. ·   the race progresses (again, we already know what has happened) ·  After the race, Anna knows Vronsky has fallen but not if he is alive or dead. Karenin three times takes her arm and insists on taking her back to Peterhof. ·  In the carriage, he says, “I am obliged to tell you that your behavior has been unbecoming today.” ·  Anna tells Karenin that she loves Vronsky. “I am his mistress. I can’t bear you. You can do what you like to me.” ·  Karenin says he expects a strict observance of the “external forms of propriety.” He will decide what measures to take and will “communicate them to you.” ·  At Peterhof, Anna learns that Vronsky is unhurt. “So he will be here tonight. What a good thing I told him (Karenin) everything. Thank God everything’s over with him (Karenin).” ·  The next scene does not pick up with Vronsky coming to Peterhof, but switches abruptly to Kitty in Moscow.

“scenes” in Write Away by Elizabeth George

·   Every scene MUST advance the plot, advance a subplot, develop character, or address theme. If not, toss it!  ·   Every scene MUST contain some degree of conflict  ·     Dramatic narration – omniscient narrator gives us the facts of what occurred. No dialogue. ·     Summary narration – quick, economical, not fully explored  ·    Fully rendered scene – allow the reader to be a witness to the activities of the characters or an eavesdropper on their conversations  ·     in PD James, A Taste for Death, two characters appear for only one scene, passing on valuable information. This adds verisimilitude, as opposed to simply reporting the information. ·     partial scene interrupting dramatic narration  ·     Every scene must have conflict.  Begin at the low point, let the tension rise to a climax, then provide a resolution which propels the entire novel forward.  ·    not every scene must be formed identically. ·   Alternative scene formulation: motion picture, sound vs sight, present-past-present, plunging in  ·   motion picture: set the scene, move to a narration of action, hit the dialogue  ·    sound vs sight: begin with dialogue (not explained first), back off to set the scene, then return to dialogue  ·    present-past-present: start the scene in real time, stop the scene and go back to previous action to bring the reader up to date (summarizing that action instead of a fully rendered scene), then return to real time  ·     plunging in. start with a character in thought or action and go with it.


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