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Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) [Paperback]

by Jack M. Bickham
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 15, 1999 0898799066 978-0898799064 1st

Craft your fiction with scene-by-scene flow, logic and readability.

An imprisoned man receives an unexpected caller, after which "everything changed. . ."

And the reader is hooked. But whether or not readers will stay on for the entire wild ride will depend on how well the writer structures the story, scene by scene.

This book is your game plan for success. Using dozens of examples from his own work - including Dropshot, Tiebreaker and other popular novels - Jack M. Bickham will guide you in building a sturdy framework for your novel, whatever its form or length. You'll learn how to:
  • "worry" your readers into following your story to the end
  • prolong your main character's struggle while moving the story ahead
  • juggle cause and effect to serve your story action
As you work on crafting compelling scenes that move the reader, moment by moment, toward the story's resolution, you'll see why. . .
  • believable fiction must make more sense than real life
  • every scene should end in disaster
  • some scenes should be condensed, and others built big
Whatever your story, this book can help you arrive at a happy ending in the company of satisfied readers.

Frequently Bought Together

Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) + Elements of Fiction Writing - Beginnings, Middles & Ends + Plot & Structure: Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish
Price for all three: $32.57

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Product Details

  • Series: Elements of Fiction Writing
  • Paperback: 168 pages
  • Publisher: Writer's Digest Books; 1st edition (March 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898799066
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898799064
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #82,862 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
52 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looks like it'll be dull--it's anything BUT! May 6, 2000
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
4.0 out of 5 stars Nuts and bolts for your creative engine June 30, 2003
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars Rating the Elements of Fiction Writing April 21, 2001
By A Customer
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
5.0 out of 5 stars HELP FOR BEGINNER AND ADVANCED ALIKE March 19, 2000
By A Customer
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
2.0 out of 5 stars Formulaic and patronising March 3, 2002
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Shows Its Age
This book is twenty years old and it's showing its age. Bickham spends a large portion of the message dedicated to slowing a story down. I've never heard of doing that. Read more
Published 1 day ago by Eric J. Juneau
3.0 out of 5 stars Guidelines for Writing
Bickharn's thesis is that every scene in every chapter needs to be about the protagonist failing to accomplish whatever he/she wants to do. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Eric
5.0 out of 5 stars Great craft book
Every writer should have this as reference or for beginning craft development. It's one of my go-to books on my shelf.
Published 1 month ago by Queen of Book Lusters
5.0 out of 5 stars Random hyperlinks in Kindle version
I've had the paper version of this book for many years, and while weaknesses exist in it, it's a great continuation and expansion of the teachings of Dwight Swain. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Kyle Word
4.0 out of 5 stars Some wisdom there but the book is it's own worst enemy...
First with much respect to Mr. Bickham who passed away in 1997 and wrote 75 published books.

With that being said:

1. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark
4.0 out of 5 stars I bought this book in 1999, and should have reviewed it earlier.
Thanks to this book I have won the Newbury Medal, the Caldecott, the Nebula, the Hugo, and the Pulitzer for fiction (twice), but I have sadly only come in second yet in Nobel... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Joseph Szilagyi
5.0 out of 5 stars What you NEED to know
Jack Bickham was a student of Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer (also HIGHLY recommended). Read more
Published 4 months ago by Carl S. Plumer
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books for novice writers
And one of the best books in the Writers Digest series. Very basic approach, sticks to fundamentals. No hard-to-follow advice. Read more
Published 4 months ago by SR Cragin
3.0 out of 5 stars I like Jack Bickham's writing
This book was bought for a gift so
I really don't feel that I can give it
an honest review
Published 4 months ago by J. Cochran
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Have for Writers
This book is exceptionally helpful in shaping better writers. I will read it repeatedly. Every aspiring writer should read this book.
Published 4 months ago by Terry Mills
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