- 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: 7 x 0.5 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (133 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #65,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Scene & Structure (Elements of Fiction Writing) 1st Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Use SCENE & STRUCTURE when you're writing your book--after you've done all your plotting and such--to understand how to most effectively put the words on the page. You won't be sorry.
The one caveat I have with SCENE & STRUCTURE is its discussion of sequels. In the couple of decades since this was written, the trend in novels has moved away from "sequels" in novels. So while Bickham talks about "scene->sequel->new scene," in today's fiction, that sequel needs to be as brief as possible--a sentence, a phrase, or even just implied and not stated. Other than that, Bickham's advice is pure gold if you want to write publishable fiction.
I do a fair amount of contest judging and one of the critical flaws I see over and over again is that beginning writers don't understand what a scene is, or how to write one that keeps the reader turning pages. Study SCENE & STRUCTURE. Understand how to write quality scenes. Apply it to your own writing and critique yourself on how well you follow that scene structure. Believe me, you won't regret it.
Most of all, don't get sucked into the arrogance of thinking "I'm so good, I don't have to follow the rules." They exist for a reason: THEY WORK. So if you aspire to write publishable fiction, this is your guide to how to put that story on paper the most effective way.
The solution to one of my stories was right there on the second page, and elaborated on on the sixth. The book helped a lot with the second story as well. I'd been doing so well with my artsy stories that I'd gotten into the habit of ignoring the basics of structure.
HOWEVER. Jack Bickham is a terrible writer. If you follow his advice to the letter, you'll write terrible, derivative pot-boilers like he did.
Bickham knows that rules aren't absolute. He often gives examples of when and why to break the rules. But even when he breaks the rules, he does it as a matter of craft, not art. Craft is how to make a story better. Art is making a set of story trade-offs that cooperatively make a story better for a particular audience or for a particular purpose. Bickham has loads of craft, but no art.
You should memorize and internalize the story structure principles Bickham describes, so that you don't even have to think about them--if you sleepwalk to your desk at night and start writing, a Bickham story should come out. Art is knowing when and how to deviate from that structure. Learn the Bickham basics in your gut, then learn the art of adapting it to tell a worthwhile story.