Saturday, June 18, 2016

Writing Basics: When should I end a scene?

So as I'm diligently working on the next chapter of Sex Powers University, I'm helping a few other femdom authors sharpen their work with edits or writing tips.

(Didn't know that you could send me your femdom fiction and get detailed critiques of how you might improve?  You can- I'll reply to anyone that sends me a femdom story at!  All I ask is that you specifically state what you want critiques on (dialog, flow, is this hot?, plot, pacing, etc.) and be open to comments.  You can send a first draft, but you'll get more out of it if you send your second.)

And recently someone asked this awesome question: "I don't have a feel for 'flow' when writing. When is it appropriate to add breaks? A longer story with multiple scenes?"

This question looks simple but has a profound impact on the pace of your story.  Some people break scenes too often.  Some, not enough.  If any of you have ever found yourself doubting yourself or looking for rules on when to end a scene, read on.

In my philosophy, there are only three sections of any scene: The Ramp Up, the Linger, and the Ramp Down.  (Picture it like a line graph.)

In the Ramp Up, you want to establish quickly and clearly what the Goal of the scene is.  Timmy is nude in his sister's room and needs to escape without being caught!  Jeff needs to convince his secretary to not tell all the other office girls about his tiny penis!  Whatever.  But establish it fast, along with some Goalpost, some way to measure progress towards or away from that Goal.
In the first example, Timmy's proximity to his room and the noise from his unaware sister's slumber party downstairs are two ways for us to tell how well things are going in his plan to get his naked butt safely back to his room.  The Goal comes first, then the Goalpost so we, the reader, are given clues (and can anticipate!) progress towards meeting that goal.  

Some methods also call this The Dramatic Question.  WILL a nude Timmy trapped in his sister's room be able to make it back to his room without being caught?  However you want to look at it, establish Goal and Goalpost early, steadily increasing reader excitement as this section goes.  Hence the term, Ramp Up.  

Once established, now the scene can Linger.  This should take up the most words in your scene- it's the entire reason you're writing it after all!  Let the main (submissive) character twist in the wind, let him/her have a success, a success and then failure.  

Timmy opens his sisters door and doesn't see any one.  (Success!)

He creeps down the hall, heart pounding, little dick hard, and almost knocks over the lamp on the hall table but catches it before it crashes to the ground!  (Success!)

But then he steps on the creaky board in the floor and the girls in the slumber party downstairs stop talking for a minute!  (A small failure.)  

Nah, that's pretty lame failure.  How about:

Holding the caught lamp, Timmy looks up to see his sister's best friend is at the top of the stairs, her mouth wide open in shock as she looks at him!  (That's better.)

Again, the Linger bit should take the most space inside your scene. This is where you take time to wallow in the situation that made you want to write the scene in the first place, where you throw in all that hot, teasing dialogue from your dominant female hurricanes that make you tingle when you think about it. You've done the set-up work, enjoy the rewards.
(Suzie's slowly pads towards a deer-in-the-headlights Timmy and giggles "And what are YOU doing up here, nudie boy?  And why is your little thingy SO hard?")

And remember, going from the Ramp Up to Linger, we STILL haven't had any breaks in the scene.  We haven't thrown in a  "***" and a few lines of white space.  It's still one continuous scene, and I'm getting to the rules on when to end it.  

Finally, after the scene's big Dramatic Question has been answered (Will nude Timmy make it back to his room safely?  Nope, Suzie just caught him.) then you need to Ramp Down.  This is a section letting down reader interest in the original goal and tying up any loose ends.  You don't necessarily have to slow the pace, just unwind and disconnect from the current goal.  (Because the next scene will have its own, different, Goal and Goalpost). 

(Suzie takes the lamp out of Timmy's shaking hands, sets it back on the hall table, and grabs his hard little cock instead.  "Come on, nudie boy- let's go show ALL the girls downstairs the naughty little fish I just caught!")

In this case, the lamp was a loose end.  You can't start a new scene without telling readers what happened to that lamp!  (I'm sort of kidding, but not really.  Imagine if the scene broke right after Suzie saw him, and the next scene started with Timmy in the middle of all his sister's friends, nude.  That would feel a little jarring, right?)  

So at the simplest level, that's how I measure a scene's flow: Ramp Up, Linger, Ramp Down.  You identify which section you are in and see if the action and paragraph pace is appropriate for it.  

So when do you break a scene?  My way is unconventional, but I say break it whenever you want to switch from one Goal to another.  Some people say only break when there is a break in time ("5 days later...") but I say it's better when there's a break in Goals.  

In our second example, Jeff's first goal is to convince his secretary not to tell anyone about his really small penis, that she saw when he accidentally emailed his nude pictures to her instead of his mistress!  He tries to bribe, then threaten her, and that backfires (big failure).   She gets out of her chair and starts heading towards the secretaries room with her smart phone in her hand and a BIG smile on her face.  His new goal is to convince her not to tell the other secretaries about his tiny penis RIGHT NOW!

Even though those two scenes take place with absolutely no time between them, I would throw a *** between his secretary getting out of her chair with a smile on her face and Jeff begging her not to show the pictures to all the girls in the break room as they go down the hall.  

This works because we are switching between one Goal and another.  Breaking there lets you have a new Ramp Up as they get closer and closer to the secretaries' break room (Goalpost), and that increasing tension draws the reader forward. Constant, high tension gets exhausting.  You need changes in tension, acceleration and deceleration, and ramping up and down over short ranges like a sports car is much more exciting than no scene breaks in a chapter at all, which is like accelerating a loaded cruise ship. 

So that's today's writing tip: if you're stuck or doubting your scene breaks, plot each scene as a Ramp Up, Linger, and Ramp Down.  And then break the scene after the Goal set up in the Ramp Up gets resolved in the Ramp Down.  

Hope that helps!

P. F. Dee

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