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on November 28, 2007
I'm a published writer who already knows a few tricks of the trade. But I was thrilled to read this book and learn so much more. Rosenfeld deconstructs all the different elements of scene writing in a very easily digestable manner, gives examples and reasons for what can work, and what can't. Most importantly, her focus is always on how things will affect the reader, which means that it can help other writers to keep their audience in mind and is a great guidebook to help us edit/trim/revise for maximum impact with our audience. This book is comprehensive, but very well laid-out so it makes for a great quick reference quide. I'm quite sure it's going to help me get more oomph out of my storytelling.
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on December 25, 2007
Rosenfeld's Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time is an extremely useful book for writers, both fiction and nonfiction. She has divided the book into four parts:

Part I Architecture of a Scene;
Part II The Core Elements and the Scene;
Part III Scene Types; and
Part IV Other Scene Considerations.

After reading the book cover to cover a month ago, I've turned to it three times in the past month to look up issues including trying to identify what worked so well in Jim Shepard's short story, Love and Hydrogen, locating a specific scene type for a memoir that I'm writing, and trimming narrative summary in a piece that I'm editing.

This is truly a comprehensive, compelling, and fun read. The exerpts that she uses as examples are all interesting, not all classic but perhaps soon to be. I highly recommend it to people who write.
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on May 23, 2008
I have a lot of writing reference books in my library--A LOT of writing reference books--and I'm rather picky when it comes to adding another one. But after reading MAKE A SCENE, I happily made room in the easy-access "favorites" section of my bookshelf. This is one of those rare a how-to books that not only makes me feel sharper as an editor, it inspires me to dive back into the creative phase of the process, not to mention the humor and flowing prose made it a true pleasure to read. The book is a great resource not just for scene-building but for all the fundamentals of good writing, with checklists, or "muse points," to help make your characters more compelling and your plot--even if you write literary fiction!--into the foundation of a page-turner. Beginners will get lots of new information (check out "Architecture of a Scene," and "Core Elements"), while experienced writers will benefit from stepping back and examining why they do what they do from instinct. This book is invaluable for the editing phase of novel writing--remember, each scene has to earn its place--and I know I'll be referring to it often!
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on November 3, 2009
Like many writers, I am a good prose writer. My characters and sensory details are strong. However, I have trouble crafting a page-turning story with a plot that hooks the reader and keeps her there. Strong scenes are the bones of a book, but they are surprisingly difficult to write. This book showed me step-by-step how a well crafted scene is developed and how those different scenes tie together to create the story. After many years of practicing prose, only now do I understand the way a scene is developed and written. My writing has improved tremendously and I can now say I no longer write boring stories. At least, I hope not.
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on August 1, 2009
I love "Make A Scene". The author breaks down the scene to its core elements--Setting, The Senses, Character Development and Motivation, Plot, Subtext, Dramatic Tension, and Scene Intentions. AFter breaking down the elements of a scene, she then continues to give insight on the different types of scenes at a writer's disposal, and techniques to use to make the scene work. I love this book; it is stationed by my computer desk, on standby, for immediate use.
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on January 24, 2014
The author discusses everything about a scene in a novel, including the kitchen sink, in this five-part book. In Part, 1 she covers functions of a scene, strong scene launches, powerful scene middles and successful scene endings. In Part III, she gives the nut-and-bolts of how to write - the beginning, middle and close -- ten types of scenes: first scenes, suspense scenes, dramatic scenes, contemplative scenes, dialogue scenes, action scenes, flashback scenes, epiphany scenes, climatic scenes and the final scene. Whether scenes can be neatly pigeonholed into 10 types is debatable though. Throughout the book, she uses bullets to emphasize important points. At the end of each chapter are "Muse Points." Layout of the book is also reader-friendly. As soon I reached the last page, I turned to the first page to re-read! Veteran novelists may know everything that is taught here, though.
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on September 9, 2013
'Making a Scene' was recommended to me by a friend, and I'm glad for it. The book is overall solid and helpful. The exception for me would be the middle chapters. The author makes a list of different scene types, and then writes a full chapter on every kind. She has to reinforce the same material about scenes in every chapter- that the scene has to effect the protagonist, et cetera.... Perhaps one chapter comparing the differences between scene types would have been more efficient. But despite the middle dragging a bit, it still held useful guidelines and pointers.

The opening and closing chapters were very strong- this book would be great for beginning writers, and a good reinforcement for veterans to pick up.

I especially liked how she covered the purpose and pacing of scene openings, middles, and closes. This book has a comfortable level of examples- enough so that the points are communicated with clarity. A lot of books lard themselves up with copious excerpts and redundant examples, but this one refrains and gives us the perfect balance.

Some veteran writers might think they already know the mechanics of putting together a scene, but I'd still advise them to skim through this- there's probably some bits in there they could benefit from.

It's not my favorite writing book of all time- but it's a good one.
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on September 10, 2008
It's interesting to see the diverse opinions about this book. I was shocked that anyone would dislike it or feel it wasn't useful, because as a writing teacher, I think it's one of the best books about writing scenes that's out there. Rosenfeld deconstructs scene writing in a way that even beginners can understand. But this book isn't simply for beginners. I used it quite a bit in teaching my advanced students. The thing I've found about writing is that a huge majority of writers don't understand scene construction. When I teach scene and sequel workshops and/or online classes, inevitably, at least half the students will be amazed to find out there's actually a method to constructing scenes. Most have simply been writing scenes aimlessly and are shocked when they realize that every scene must have some kind of conflict. They're amazed by the concept of goal/conflict/disaster, have never heard of Dwight Swain or Jack Bickham, and struggle to master this "new" information. And some of these students have been writing for years and have no idea why they haven't been able to sell. It's kind of sad, really. So after I teach the basics of scene and sequel, MAKE A SCENE fits right in for the next level of learning. I found MAKE A SCENE very useful and very well written and understandable. It would be a great addition to any writer's bookshelf and I highly recommend it.
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on April 27, 2008
Make A Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld attempts to focus on how to create great scenes for a written work. She delves into many different types of scenes in an attempt to pick apart the elements that make these scenes memorable, engaging and keep the reader reading.

If you enjoy "literary" or "character-driven" books as opposed to "commercial" or "plot-driven" books (in reality the distinctions are far too artificial to be useful) then you will likely be familiar with many of the sources Rosenfeld uses. That is largely because with only one exception literary works are all she draws from. The only commercial reference she uses is from "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back" when Vader uses those stunning four words that we all know by now.

And if you are a man, you might find reading the examples she provides to be a bit like watching a long series of previews of most of the movies on the "Lifetime" channel. Most if not all of the stories Rosenfeld picks from are stories where the man is abusive, controlling, usually addicted to alcohol and uses his fists to communicate to his wife.

One was about a naive young woman who is warned by her oppressive mother that men "only want one thing" and she goes off with a man against her mother's wishes only to find out that this man really DOES only want one thing and is abusive to her.

Edit - Saturday Sept 6, 2008

Another example of this involves a story about a daughter going to see her estranged father. She notices her piano teacher and it's obvious her father doesn't want to talk about it overmuch. The mother has long since died and was branded an insane woman. The father at that time was quick to hop right on the bandwagon. After some probing, the father is forced to admit that during his wife's "insanity" he was having an affair with the piano teacher. Suddenly the protagonist realizes that her "insane" mother was right the whole time, as she accused her husband of adultery, and the whole community, including her father was against her mother.

And there aren't any counter examples of this either. There are NO instances where the man is good, is trying to become good, is trying to redeem himself from a previous incident, or even cares if he ever becomes good. Just like in the vast majority of Lifetime movies, the men in the stories Rosenfeld quotes from are EVIL, EVIL MEN who must die. Obviously this is sexist, sexist against men, but sexist nonetheless. And if there's one thing a person should know about writers, it's that the things they read influence what they write, so man-bashing stories in, man-bashing stories out.

End Edit

She is also a fan of symbolism. Now I am not saying symbolism is bad, but the ultimate goal of writing a story is to craft a work that allows another person to experience something that they may know themselves a little better. If the author wishes to include a symbol, then it should be there because it is a natural byproduct of the story itself and thus somehow contributes to the aforementioned end, not because the author can feel clever and sly. Artificially throwing in symbols for their own sake is just as convoluted as it sounds, and thus waters down even the strongest work considerably. I felt as though more than a few of the authors Rosenfeld quoted were only throwing symbols into their work for its own sake, although to be fair I have not read those stories.

Those writing commercial fiction may benefit from her suggestions, but there are many aspects that would feel out of place if not in a literary work.

One that comes to mind is her surprisingly strong suggestion of writing in second person. So instead of:

"My hands were shaking as I approached the door. What would be waiting for me? A dead body? My killer? Worse? Was there worse?"


"Joe's hands were shaking as he approached the door...." etc.

Instead she recommends writing this:

"Your hands were shaking as you approached the door...." etc.

She also recommends writing in the present tense, second person or no. So instead of:

"Susan grabbed her purse and found her cell phone inside. She frantically dialed 911 hoping she wasn't too late."

Rosenfeld recommends this:

"Susan grabs her purse and finds her cell phone inside. She frantically dials 911 hoping she isn't too late."

(All of these examples are mine.)

I for one find either style of writing to be very jarring and disengaging. I do not find narrating a story in the present tense to "blur the line" between reality and story, as Rosenfeld suggests, although she does point out, correctly, that anything that disengages your reader from your story is a sure way to kill your work.

The book also ends rather abruptly. I knew I was getting close to the end of the book, so I was expecting to get to the last page. What I was not expecting was what was the final paragraph on the final section to then see the index. No real conclusion or final wrap up. It just ends.

With all of the other really good books on how to craft a story, it's very hard to recommend this book, especially to people who want to craft stories that focus more on plot and less on character. For $15 one could do worse but there is precious little that makes this book a "must-buy."

Instead, I would recommend Todd Stone's "Novelists Boot Camp", Stephen King's "On Writing" or the "Write Great Fiction" series.
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on October 1, 2014
Excellent book. I've been reading a few books on writing fiction over the last one year, and with this book, I am glad to say that my search is over! This is THE one book to buy if you want to learn fiction-writing. Engagingly written, practical (most important) and effective (I hope).

Of course, try to use the pointers mentioned in this book as guidelines - don't follow them exactly. Otherwise, we'll all become robotic storytellers! What this book fails to tell is - we all have our own styles and for that we need to break a rule or two. But first, we need to learn the rules and understand why they are there in the first place. This book helps us with just that.
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