WIP: Writing a Scene

I guess I am a bit of an obsessive outliner after all, because even as I prepare to write a scene, I make a semblance of an outline. It keeps me on track. I ask myself what I need to get across in the scene, then jot down notes. Here’s an example from early in the book so I don’t give too much away. I knew the scene would take place at a memorial service. In my full book outline, I said the service would be on the beach, but as I thought more about it, I knew the beach would not be conducive to the service, so right off the bat, I changed the setting to a large building on Topsail Island. (note to blog readers who’ve been following the name change issue–the mother is now Lori, though that may not last either! Sue Ellen is now her best friend).
What I needed to get across in this scene:

  • the setting. the building and a bit of its history.
  • Lori’s point of view, because she has the most at stake emotionally; she’s seated between Andy and Maggie and acutely aware of their presence and her good fortune at having her precious son there with her
  • the somber mood of the community
  • Reverend Bill’s sincere sorrow over the loss of the fire victims and his church, as well as his disdain for the Lockwood family
  • Keith’s condition–heavily sedated,  unable to speak
  • the firefighters are up front; marcus is in 3/4 profile to lori
  • the mayor (?–or some official?) requested Andy sit in front row. he/she will honor Andy (as well as firefighters) during the service. people are aware of Andy’s heroism. How people treated Andy in the past.  
  • Lori views Maggie almost as a co-parent instead of as a daughter
  • Lori’s upset that Keith made references to the financial differences between their families. Does Sue Ellen (Lori’s best friend and Keith’s mother) harbor grievances toward her she’s never spoken about? A bit of the history between Lori and Sue Ellen, how Sue Ellen really saved Lori.
  • History of Andy and Keith’s relationship and Keith’s wildness
  • Dawn announces the formation of a fund for the victims

Even as I wrote this scene, things changed because the characters did a few things I didn’t expect. Nevertheless, I need to know what I plan to accomplish before writing a scene. What does the reader need to know at that point in the story?
I remember that as I wrote this scene at the Opium Den, I cried. (The people at the Opium Den are used to me. . . ). Lori could feel her children’s arms against her arms as they sat next to each other at the service and was overwhelmed with gratitude that they were safe and alive. I got overwhelmed right along with her. I LOVE when that happens!
Off to the Opium Den right now, the outline of my next scene in hand.


  1. Margo on January 30, 2007 at 8:20 am

    Diane, you are wonderful to share outlines with us. It makes the wait for this book a little easier to bare…and I really like the name Lori for mom (-:

  2. Margo on January 30, 2007 at 8:27 am

    As I sit here this a.m. drinking my Starbucks Sumatra coffee with the weather outside -22 degrees windchill, I pretend I’m at Topsail Beach. So glad you had this on your blog this a.m. Diane so I could temporarily ‘escape’ the freezing temperatures.

  3. Diane Chamberlain on January 30, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    minus 22 degrees wind chill? it was 40 here this morning and i was freezing! you have my sympathy.

  4. Margo on January 30, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Just stepped out for a quik lunch break and it’s actually warmed up to -18 degrees wind chill…no kidding, it feels like the arctic today and looks it too with everything covered in snow…the snows gorgeous but even with a turtleneck and pullover on I can’t warm up today! 40 degrees is considered a heat wave here!

  5. Kathy Holmes on January 30, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    Yes, thank you for sharing your outline – what an excellent approach to a scene.

  6. Krysia on January 30, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    40 degrees is shorts weather. I agree with Margo, it was so cold here my car barely would start or move this morning. Made me contemplate actually wearing a winter coat.

  7. Ann on January 30, 2007 at 7:50 pm

    Margo, where do you live? As a North Carolinian I cannot imagine those temperatures. I get cold when it is below 50. I am a WIMP!

  8. pattie on January 31, 2007 at 8:43 am

    When my son lived in South Carolina & would come home for Christmas, he couldn’t deal with the cold here (Pennsylvania), but now that he’s been back for a few years, he’s used to it again. His heavy Land’s End coat helps.
    Diane, thanks for sharing your notes on a scene. Very helpful to me as I flail around, writing scenes as they pop in my head…I get dialogue first, then the setting, like a movie playing out in my head. Then I [try to] define & refine the scene’s purpose.

  9. Margo on January 31, 2007 at 9:27 am

    Ann, I live in Iowa and believe me it is chilly! A little warmer than yesterday, actually -14 below wind chill (lol). We’re expected to get more snow today and temperatures are going to be like this all week. I’m pretty used to it tho as I’ve lived here my whole life. I grew up on an acreage and I well remember snow blizzards and actual temps of -30 below…in the winter we survive with hooded parkas, boots, warm gloves and hats and for indoor weather lots of turtlenecks!

  10. Brenda on January 31, 2007 at 4:16 pm

    I have a teacher friend who lives in Iowa.
    She too talks about the weather.
    My son lives in an area now that is so windy, cold, and snowy…he is there because of his job but moved there from Texas. He is shocked that people live in such cold areas forever…as am I…I couldn’t stand it-it is bad enough here in WV…having lived in S.Carolina for awhile-I was spoiled.
    Arthritis is bad when it is cold…mine anyway.

  11. Diane Chamberlain on January 31, 2007 at 11:57 pm

    I was too smug too soon. We’re expecting an ice storm tomorrow. 🙁

  12. Krysia on February 1, 2007 at 12:07 pm

    Last month we were supposed to get the worst ice storm we’ve seen in years, worse than the one April 2001. I was freaking considering they are still working on powerlines in the western part of the state (there really isn’t much there but you can’t help feeling for the ranchers) from the horrendous snowstorm we got in 2005. But it never showed. So maybe that will happen there.

  13. Krysia on February 1, 2007 at 12:09 pm

    Actually that should be december, i fforgot it’s already february.

  14. Diane Chamberlain on February 1, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    Glad that storm never happened, Krysia.
    Right now, there’s a thin blanket of snow outside and freezing rain is sprinkling down on top of it. No Opium Den for me this morning. If I could figure out how to use the fireplace, we’d have a fire. Instead, the dogs and I are cuddled up in my office and as soon as I’m done blogging, I’ll get to work on my book.

  15. Margo on February 1, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    Don’t fall on the ice Diane…I did that 5 years ago and broke my left wrist in 10 places…not fun at all.

  16. Diane Chamberlain on February 1, 2007 at 1:29 pm

    10 places! i didn’t even know there were that many bones in our wrists. i fell a few years ago, two days after wrist surgery. by some miracle, i did no damage, but now i’m very careful. i even bought yaktrax, which makes everyone laugh at me, but who cares?

  17. Margo on February 1, 2007 at 2:10 pm

    My dr. actually said it was ‘shattered’ in ten spots so technically I’m not sure if that meant bones or what…I went thru 2 surgeries, had pins placed in the wrist, developed staff infection and was then hospitalized for 10 days…then, was sent home with a portable IV thru my other wrist for 6 weeks…my wonderful husband washed my hair for me everyday because I can’t stand not to have it cleaned everyday, he helped me do everything…it was quite a time…I had an excellent surgeon and can play piano again. The only thing I lost was the feeling in my left thumb, but we don’t really need that anyway do we?

  18. Diane Chamberlain on February 1, 2007 at 4:46 pm

    I’ve seen pictures of your beautiful LONG hair–your hubby’s a saint.

  19. Margo on February 2, 2007 at 8:21 am

    Thx Diane. And you know what?…he NEVER complained once.

  20. Brenda on February 2, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    My students are finishing a research paper and will begin a short story soon. What do I do to prepare them? I tell them mini-stories (some I make up) and let them “see” how some characters are not described at all…it works…
    As to the ice-Diane, when I lived in S.Carolina, would visit a friend in N.C. and often there would be ice and snow (Statesville) when we had NOTHING in S.C.
    N.C. gets too much ice and snow for me-that’s why when I decided to go SOUTH-it had to be South Carolina or farther down…however…there is much to do in NC
    On another note-anxiously awaiting the Grease tryouts-one of the boys graduated from Winfield High School-where I taught last year-here in Putnam County…(Grease-my number one movie along with GONE WITH WIND and LITTLE WOMEN)

  21. Diane Chamberlain on February 2, 2007 at 6:36 pm

    When are those Grease tryouts? I caught one of the shows while in NJ, and it was fun. But I don’t even know what station we were watching.

  22. Brenda on February 2, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    I think NBC-I tried not to watch them-don’t want to ruin GREASE for me-but I had to watch part of the last one because of the boy from WV. This Sunday-because of Super Bowl-it will be rerun…then for several weeks-I’ll watch the LAST one hopefully. I do not like reality shows.

  23. Diane Chamberlain on February 3, 2007 at 12:39 am

    The reality shows I really got into were Project Runway on Bravo–real talent there! We don’t get Bravo so my stepdaughter records it and sends me the dvds. I also love the home and garden channels Design competition show (can’t recall the name of it.) Again the talent rose to the top.

  24. Brenda on February 3, 2007 at 11:24 am

    I do like the home show where they pick a home out of three…I get tickled when they are looking for homes for their toys (boats, etc.–we used to have boat when the kids were young and like to ski), and for their dogs…I have always had a dog-or for entertaining…seldom mention for “us” for our children or for “LIVING” Just funny…
    I especially like the ones with the Craft homes…would love to have one of those…my house is not old-but have lived in them in the past-growing up

  25. pattie on February 6, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    Project Runway is my favorite reality show! I got Mitzi interested in it too. Don’t you just LOVE Tim Gunn??!!

  26. pattie on February 6, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    Brenda, that’s House Hunters, right? I like that one also. Love HGTV. I had to stop watching Food Network shows because they make me hungry!

  27. Brenda on February 6, 2007 at 4:21 pm

    I like House Hunters.
    I like Rachel Ray and Paula Dean (spelling?)
    Would love to use Rachel’s recipes but as a vegetarian–too much for just my husband.
    Was funny at Christmas-the family here-and guess what they wanted after huge T’giving meal-a few days later–MOM’S FAMOUS spaghetti (yes-I put meat in it for them…) and red wine…

  28. Diane Chamberlain on February 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    yes, tim gunn is a trip! and i like house hunters, too. john and i hold our breath waiting for the inevitable line “this room would make a great office!” it happens every show at least once.

  29. Brenda on February 7, 2007 at 5:36 pm

    So write Diane-or look at the crown molding…now it is granite countertops and stainless steel in kitchen-beautiful, however I read in a magazine recently that stainless steel is going to appear dated just as the green did in the 70’s (I had that green) but any time I replaced something, I went for white or off white-depending on the kitchen I had at the time. My kitchen now has white and black appliances…it is pretty…but I must admit I don’t live in my kitchen as those do on those shows…

  30. Brenda on February 7, 2007 at 5:37 pm

    Did you see how I spelled “right”—write–Freudian slip…I am pretty picky about spelling as an English teacher, but when I think of Diane, I think of WRITE…

  31. Diane Chamberlain on February 7, 2007 at 5:50 pm

    shh, brenda! don’t let john hear you about the stainless steel! i’m hoping to replace the old black appliances in my kitchen with it. by the time i get around to it, i suppose, something else will be in style. i just saw purple washer and dryers in the store. no way!

  32. Margo on February 8, 2007 at 8:36 am

    When we remodeled our kitchen 5 years ago we replaced all appliances with stainless steel and WE LOVE IT…even 5 years later! I think there’s something about it that is timeless no matter what color trends are in style. This is now my dream kitchen and I plan on keeping it just the way it is. We also placed cobalt blue tiles along 1 wall behind the sink, stove etc. with an occasional seashell in between…now you know why I’ll never change this room! Purple washer and dryers?…wow, I wonder if they make cobalt blue!

  33. pattie on February 8, 2007 at 8:51 am

    oooh, Margo, cobalt blue–love it! Your kitchen sounds gorgeous.

  34. Brenda on February 8, 2007 at 9:05 am

    I love the stainless too-I was just laughing about how “everything” I read tells us we must update and replace so often…I have black oven (just replaced last year) black flat top burners…I have white dishwasher and fridge-but will need replaced eventually-and will go with black to match what is already in the kitchen (stove). I am aggravated that the people who had the house before didn’t do it all at once when they spent so much money remodeling the kitchen. Also-the cobalt blue sounds beautiful.

  35. Brenda on February 8, 2007 at 9:06 am

    P.S. My theory-go for what YOU like and if it goes out of style-who cares…takes about l0 years anyway…

  36. Brenda on February 8, 2007 at 9:07 am

    Diane-can’t wait to hear about your characters…Wish I could come to the workshop but not this year…

  37. Brenda on February 8, 2007 at 9:09 am

    P.S. I graduate early May. Am going to see if I can make the workshop-will decide this week and register. The cost is GREAT…GREAT…just checked your events…

  38. Margo on February 8, 2007 at 10:47 am

    Thx Pattie. I planned that kitchen for many years and when it finally happened for us I knew I would always keep it. Cobalt blue is my very favorite color and when we went shopping for tiles and found them at Lowe’s we new we were set. We even bought extra tiles and I made trays with them! Brenda, you’ll be SO LUCKY if you go to D’s workshop!

  39. Diane Chamberlain on February 8, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    margo, i can see you with cobalt blue in your kitchen! do you have a tile of your macaws in it somewhere? if you send a pic of them, i’ll put them on the blog. i love those birds!
    brenda, what fun it would be to have you in the class! you don’t need to rush to decide. i haven’t gotten the word out yet except on the blog and won’t for another couple of weeks.

  40. Margo on February 8, 2007 at 2:22 pm

    Diane, just e-mailed you the blue macaw tile. Yes, it’s in my kitchen and I actually have it lying on my butcher block!

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