Thursday, October 27, 2011


Recently I taught a class at the Book Academy and was surprised by how many people in my class had no idea what the scene/sequel sequence is.  Judging by some of the disjointed books I've read over the past year, I'd guess a lot of people don't understand this simple method of writing.  In case you're interested, here are the basics to this writing method.

To begin with, the scene half of the method consists of three parts.

Goal:  This is what the point of view character wishes to accomplish.  (Don't confuse this with the writer's goal; their goals may be and usually are quite different.)

Dilemma:  This is where the point of view character works through a plan for reaching his or her goal and attempts to carry out that plan.

Disaster:  This is where something or someone wrecks the plan or in some cases the point of view character may achieve the goal but getting what he/she wanted can itself be a disaster for various reasons.

A scene is always shown from one character's point of view.  No head hopping allowed.

Next comes the sequel which also consists of three parts.  It is usually in the same character's point of view, but can be in another character's point of view.  If handled right, there can be more than one reaction following one after another from multiple characters' points of view, but not jumbled together.

Reaction:  This is where a character reacts to the scene's disaster.  It may be as brief as bursting into tears or as long as needed to show the response to the disaster.

Re-evaluate:  This is from the same POV as the reaction and is where the reacting character works out a method of dealing with the disaster, determines that something has to be done, and considers ways of dealing with obstacles.

Resolution:  This is where the POV character makes up his/her mind to do something specific to correct the disaster.  This resolution may become the goal for the next scene which may or may not follow immediately, but should be the goal of a future scene where this character is the POV character.

Following this method is a great way to create a logical sequence to a story.  It eliminates the annoying habit some writers have of jumping from one character's head to another until the reader has no idea who is thinking or saying anything.  Consecutive scenes may be from different points of view, but a great deal of confusion and annoyance can be avoided by remembering to stay in one character's head until a scene or sequel is finished. A scene or a sequel can be as long or as brief as needed.  An entire chapter may consist of one sequence or it may contain several.  I find I average about three to a chapter, though this varies.

Another advantage to using this method is the help it gives in overcoming writer's block.  If a writer is stuck, I've found it works well to take a blank sheet of paper, space these six steps down one side of the paper, then jot down a brief outline of what needs to happen at each of these steps.

Some writers use this method to outline an entire book on paper.  Others only use a mental form of outlining, but still follow these steps.  It's an effective way to write especially for new writers.  More experienced writers often work out a variation of this method, but still adhere to one scene/one head.
The month is almost over, but entries into the October Wish List Contest will be accepted until midnight Monday. The prizes are books and you get to choose from your own LDS fiction wish list.  To enter, comment on any blog or review written by me and posted during October on this blog, on the V-Formation blog, or on Meridian and/or become a follower on this blog.  Multiple entries are welcome and I'll be the sole judge of whether or not an entry is appropriate.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Shopping just isn't my thing!

It may sound strange, but I don't like to shop.  I endure grocery shopping because I like to eat.  I put off clothes shopping as long as possible even though, like most women, I like something new to wear.  Shoe shopping is torture.  When it comes to household furniture and appliances I find myself wishing I could make them once-in-a-lifetime purchases which would never wear out.  Yesterday I found myself doing the worst kind of shopping of all--car shopping.

I have absolutely loved my little Saturn Ion which I bought seven years ago.  Terrific gas mileage, looked nice, paid for, dependable, very little maintenance required, an all around great car.  But my husband finally convinced me I needed to trade it in while it still had some resale value and before I had to buy new tires or it required major work due to age. 

Buying the new car was an all day production.  I soon discovered most new cars are ugly.  Car salesrooms are filled with over-priced impracticality.  In some, a squad of salesmen hover at your elbow and in others there isn't a sales person to be found.  We eventually found a dealership where the balance felt right and the salesman was helpful rather than pushy. I checked out the Cruze Eco online and at several dealerships and liked what I saw, but everywhere I looked they were all manual transmissions except at this one place.  I learned to drive on a manual, but most of my driving is city and in the city I like an automatic much better.  At last I'd found a salesman I liked and a car I liked.  Even the color was good--a bright crystal red.

Unlike with other shopping where once I find what I like, I pay for it, and go on my way, buying a car involves hours of filling out papers, waiting for this and that, deciding whether to go with this guarantee or that, this service or that, and with today's cars there are lessons on learning to use On-star and operate satellite radio along with which button opens the trunk and which starts the engine.  After spending two thirds of the day at the dealership before driving the new car home, I still have to take it back for some treatment I think I agreed to because I was tired and wanted to go home.  By the way, on the drive home I discovered On-Star doesn't know the best way to my house and satellite radio sounds the same as plain old FM. It was a smooth comfortable ride, however.

After all that, I just hope my Cruze proves as dependable as my dear old Saturn.  It's a cool looking car and if the gas mileage lives up to its hype, I'll be happy.  And with any luck, I won't have to go car shopping again for a really long time.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Sharing a few pictures

What a week this has been. I shared a picture from the court proceeding and thought you might like to see a few pictures taken after the sealing at the Oquirrh Mountain Temple on Saturday. The baby wore the same dress today for her blessing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Tuesday morning the adoption of my newest, darling granddaughter was finalized.  Saturday our family will gather at the temple to be a part of her sealing to our family for all eternity and Sunday she will be blessed.  It's shaping up to be a wondrous, happy week.

Naturally my mind has turned often to the miracle of adoption lately.  I feel deep gratitude to the young mothers who loved their babies enough to give them two parents and a better chance in life than they could. 
I feel a kind of sadness for the television shows and popular culture push for birth mothers who haven't finished school and have no real means of support, to keep their babies.  I see young women who are emotionally immature, alone, or trying to escape dysfunctional homes being taught to think "if you keep your baby you'll have someone who loves you", "only a bad person would give away her child", "It'll be so much fun to have a baby," "don't worry about the money; there's government financial help for single mothers," "what will he think of you when he learns he was adopted?" or parents who insist "you can't give away my grandchild."  Notice none of these concerns are actually for the baby.  Almost always when there's no chance of marriage or a continuing loving relationship between the parents, premature parenthood is in neither the young mother's or her baby's best interest.
Too often single girls who keep their babies end up living a life of poverty.  Their children are more likely to do without essentials, many suffer abuse from their mothers' boyfriends, and they're less likely to finish high school or go on to college.  There are exceptions of course, but it's so much harder.  I've seen grandparents who struggle to care for grandchildren, who love them, and act as parents, then suddenly have the children torn from their home when the mother decides to marry and take the children far away.  I've also seen grandparents left in charge of their single child's baby who are physically unable to provide the needed care, leaving the baby or toddler unintentionally neglected.
Adoptions these days are very open.  The young woman who chooses to place her child in a stable home can receive regular reports and pictures to assure her of the child's well-being.  In some cases she can see the child at regular intervals.  She can also finish her education, mature, establish a career, marry, and pursue her dreams, knowing the child she loves is being properly cared for and has the advantages of a loving home, enough to eat, the prospect of higher education, and the love of an extended family.
One of the greatest heartbreaks a couple can face is the knowledge that they can't have children. Here you have a couple who are committed to each other, financially prepared for parenthood, mature enough to be good parents, but for some reason they can't conceive.  If these parents are fortunate enough to be allowed to adopt a child, I assure you they feel nothing but love and admiration for the birth mother who honestly considers her baby's future needs above her own. They respect her courage in completing the pregnancy and letting go of a piece of herself for the child's better good.
Adoption is no guarantee the child will have no problems and the parents will always know how to deal with every issue, but the same can be said for all children.  Children don't come with how-to manuals, but adoptive parents receive more training than most as the proceed through the pre-adoption process.  In my state they have to pass a pretty extensive background check as well.  If anyone doubts an adopted child is loved as much as one born into a family, let me assure you there is no basis for that fear  An adopted child is always wanted.  One of my most treasured memories is that of my daughter when her first adopted child was placed in her arms by his birth mother.  The look of joy, of rightness, of love on these two young women's faces is a memory I hold priceless. The same feelings of love and awe I experience holding my other grandchildren is there for these two adopted ones.  I never find myself thinking, this one is adopted and this one isn't.  They're all my grandchildren and all eleven are the most precious children in the world. If my experience is an indication of a trend, I'd say adoption is truly a win-win proposition for all concerned. My deepest thanks goes out to two brave young women who gave my grandchildren life, then gave them the precious gift of love by allowing them to be adopted.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Reading, writing, and reviewing are top priorities in my life. I devote a lot of time to these three things.  There are few things I'd rather do, but they aren't my only priorities.  My husband, my children, and my grandchildren have first claim on my time and attention.  The two days I spend serving in the temple rank among my top priorities as well.  There are also my extended family and a whole raft of temporary priorities such as mopping my kitchen floor, weeding a flower bed, teaching a class, doing the laundry, balancing our checkbooks, visiting teaching, and so on.  I'm no different from other writers.  We have lives to lead that come before our characters' lives. (I've only ever met one writer who can afford a maid.)  But I always come back to reading, writing, and reviewing.

It's important for each individual, not just writers, to discover their priorities.  Writing isn't the only occupation that requires the ability to self-start and to set priorities, but since I'm in the writing business that's what I'm going to talk about.  People who need someone else to wake them up, set their goals, and propel them toward the computer won't accomplish much.  Writers who carve out their own time and predetermine what constitutes a qualified interruption are more likely to succeed than those who spend most of their precious writing time playing. The writer with a story to tell, a determination to get it published, and the ability to determine the priorities that will get him/her to that goal will succeed.
Establishing priorities is much like goal setting.  First it is necessary to decide what matters most.  For most of us, family comes before career, talents, or personal wants.  Next comes needs; you know the routine; food, shelter, safety.  Eventually we get down to things like careers, vocations, talents, and ambitions.  For a writer, this usually means getting published and like so many of life's goals, much of the pleasure is derived from the journey.

Important aspects of making writing a priority are self-discipline, education, reading, and finishing.  Self discipline is important if writing is a true priority.  Facebook and games are fun and the networking can be beneficial, but they can steal a lot of valuable writing time, as can TV.  If, like me, a person can't write until the beds are made and breakfast dishes are done, then do them first and fast.  Eliminate as many distractions as possible as quickly as possible, then get to work.
Education doesn't always mean formal education.  Writers can save themselves a lot of time and disappointment by reading books on writing, following up web sites devoted to writing instruction, and by attending conferences and seminars.  Being part of a critique group can help a writer overcome some major stumbling blocks to becoming an accomplished and published author.
I know several writers who claim they don't have time to read.  Frankly their work shows it.  Reading what others in your genre write can be invaluable to discovering techniques, errors to avoid, and provide insight into why readers buy those writers' books.  Reading in other genres broadens the background a writer brings to his/her own writing.
Finishing is an essential priority.  Writers who allow themselves to be distracted by other book ideas tend to have dozens of partial manuscripts lying around, but no contracts and no books on store shelves.  If a super idea occurs while working on something else, jot down a few notes and shove it in a drawer, then get back to finishing the manuscript at hand.
Modern life is so filled with distractions, information overload, enticing choices, and responsibilities, it can be overwhelming.  Setting priorities eliminates some of life's emotional and physical clutter.
This month for the October Wish List Contest I'd like to hear about your priorities, your stories of how you've set your priorities, and how you stick to them. I'd also like to hear how you handle interruptions to those priorities you've set.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


And the winners are . . (drum roll) Stephanie Black and Tarmy.   Congratulations to both of you.  Please send me your LDS fiction wish list before Friday, Oct. 7--five or more books!  I'll send one of them to you for your prize.  Send the list and your mailing address to bhansen22 at msn dot com.