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Scene and Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) Hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0898795516 ISBN-10: 0898795516 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Writers Digest Books; 1st edition (January 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898795516
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898795516
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #354,662 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

I would recommend this book to my friends and writers.
Leelee Sheed
In my opinion the worst would be for someone to finish the book just to find out what happens and not have enjoyed it.
James A. Self
So I like this brick by brick way of plotting and structuring a scene and a story.
Perri

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Teri Tasker on May 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Where was this book when I was writing my first three novels? Halfway through this book, I threw out everything after chapter two of my current book (and I had 13 chapters already written!) and started rewriting feverishly. Powerful stuff. If you haven't read this book, you probably don't know enough about how to write captivating scenes and what to do with the characters AFTER the scene is over. I only put this book down long enough to apply what I was learning. It's worth every penny. A heartfelt wish Jack Bickham had written much, much more about the art of writing...
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50 of 51 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 30, 2003
Format: Paperback
With due respect to other reviewers (below), I think they overlook the central strengths of Bickham's "Scene & Structure" and home in on peripheral weaknesses.
An absolute prerequisite to success in any craft is acquiring its vocabulary. If you go in for graphic design, you'd better know how to use concepts such as contrast, repetition, proximity and alignment. And if you go in for fiction-writing, you'd better be able to use concepts such as scene, sequel, conflict, stimulus-response, and so on.
You might have a layman's understanding of what a scene is, but from the writer's standpoint, exactly what is a scene? What is its purpose? What work does it do in the overall structure of a story? What are its elements? What sorts of variation are possible? How do you control the pace of a scene? How do you effectively connect one scene with another?
These are the kinds of questions Bickham answers in useful detail and with comprehensible illustrations. If the excerpts from his own writing in the appendices aren't masterpieces, as some reviewers complain, they do serve to illustrate specific principles and techniques discussed in the text, and these are what make the book worth studying. To mention just one example, before encountering this book I had never grasped -- never even heard of -- the distinction between a scene and a sequel. Yet it's an essential distinction that a fiction-writer must know how to use. Bickham tells you, shows you, how to use it -- and many, many others.
Bear Bryant was no Joe Namath. Bob Fosse was no Fred Astaire. The best coaches and teachers are rarely top-notch practitioners of their arts. Jack Bickham is no Charles Dickens, granted.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've read all the books in the Elements of Fiction Writing series and this is how I'd rank them.
"Scene & Structure" "Characters & Viewpoint" "Beginnings, Middles & Ends"
The above three books are invaluable -- must reads. They are the best of the series, in my opinion, and are packed with good information on every page. Well-done.
"Conflict, Action & Suspense" "Description" "Plot" "Manuscript Submission" "Setting"
The above five books are good, solid reads. Again, they contain good information and cover the subject decently.
"Voice & Style" "Dialogue"
To me, the last two books need to be rewritten. They are by far the weakest of the series. Both suffer from an annoying style, particularly Dialogue, and both are very skimpy on real information. Neither one is very helpful.
This is the order in which I'd recommend reading them.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
Most books on fiction writing aren't worth the paper they're printed on. This one is different. Jack Bickham is a master when it comes to structure, and if you let it, this book can make you a master as well. Not everything about writing can be learned; fortunately structure is something that can. This book is as well-structured as are Bickham's novels. Frankly, I don't know any writer, beginner or advanced, who couldn't profit from this book. It's certainly helped me.
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167 of 200 people found the following review helpful By HLT on March 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the third "Elements of Fiction Writing" book that I've read. The previous two ("Characters and Viewpoint" , and "Beginnings, Middles, and Ends") are truly excellent, and I have no hesitation in recommending them as both readable and usable.
Unfortunately, this work falls far short of the standards set by the previous two books.
Here's an example of Bickham's writing, excerpted from one of his novels and presented in this book as an example to be emulated:
"A sound like air gun pellets loudly peppered the front wall of his cabin."
In my world, air gun pellets might pepper a wall, but a sound cannot. Perhaps that's just his style? If pulling the reader up short and making him say "huh?" is style, then fine - but personally, I'd expect his examples to be cleaner than this.

As for the assertion that every scene must end with a disaster (OK, he means setback perhaps, but disaster is the term he uses), once again: huh? I've carefully checked several popular novels on my shelves - the sort of work I'd be proud to write - and it just ain't so. That's not to say I've never read novels that follow that formula to a large degree, but they've been just that: formulaic. Perhaps there's money to be made down that road, perhaps it's a way to get published, but it's not for me.
He actually goes further than that. Every scene must begin with a clear statement of goal ("most of the time, the character states his immediate goal in obvious, unmistakable fashion"), to be followed by development of conflict, and finalised by failure to reach the goal. Then there must be sequel - again precisely structured (Emotion, Thought, Decision, Action).
I also found the writing style problematic.
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