The Art of the Single Scene Story
A great way to better understand what we’re looking for in editor’s picks here at yeah write is to closely read the essays we select for that honor, together with our comments. Last week, in the commentary on my nonfiction pick from Lisa at Pryvate Parts, I praised her “unflinching dedication to story.” I want to dig a little deeper into that statement, because therein lies a perfect way for you to achieve what Rowan and I are teaching you all this month: the difference between writing for yourself and writing to connect with your readers.
What do I mean by “unflinching dedication to story”? Imagine you have one sheet of paper on which to write your post. On that sheet, you’re only allowed to put down what happened, not what you thought or felt about what happened. You can keep an extra scrap sheet of paper for that stuff and, every time you’re tempted to insert your feelings and thoughts into the story, grab that scrap paper and jot your emotional stuff down there instead. The main sheet of paper should be dedicated only to making a scene – a narrative hook, compelling rising action, a climax, and a resolution.
Sometimes the best way to illustrate a concept is to see an example. This might embarrass our editor-in-chief Michelle, but her piece “Happy Drunk” – which won the jury prize here at yeah write way back in week 102 when Michelle was a weekly grid writer like you are now – is still what I consider one of the best single scene stories we’ve ever featured on the grid. Here’s what I wrote about her piece back then: “Truly excellent scenes hide their bones so that we see only the flesh, and this efficient less-than-500-words scene evoked an array of images and reactions and backstories we will never know the whole of.”
This type of tightly written single scene story draws your reader in because they have nowhere else to go. There’s built-in tension and suspense – even in humor pieces – when the reader doesn’t have an out because you’ve given them no knowing looks, no pithy asides, no summary reflections.
So this week, to draw your reader in, practice the art of the single scene story. Keep your scrap paper handy next to you, because the temptation to write outside your storyline will be strong and you’ll need someplace besides your essay to dump those thoughts.
Yeah write super challenge
The yeah write super challenge #3 is now open for early (discounted!) registration! Make sure you fill our your registration form and send in payment before the deadline to be fully admitted to the contest. Don’t forget to sign up for our email blast as well so you don’t miss out on any announcements.
This month’s nonfiction know-how is learning the difference between navelgazing and reaching outward. That is, as storytellers we’re at our finest when it’s not about us, it’s about the reader. So when you write an introspective post, think about saying instead of “am I the only one who feels like this,” you should be saying “I feel like this too, you are not alone.” Learn more from Rowan here.
Want more info?
Is this your first time here? Check out Sunday’s post which kicked off the week here at yeah write. Our email subscribers can also join us in the yeah write coffeehouse at its home on Facebook. If you’ve never taken the time to read them, please take a moment to familiarize yourself with our submission guidelines. The rules are a little different for each of our challenges and we’d hate to have to send back great writing on a technicality.
Did you happen to end up here because you suddenly saw yeah write in your stats? Sometimes members of our community spot excellent writing and they send those posts on over to us. We hope you don’t mind. Take a look around and get to know our community. We’re sure you’ll be happy here.
How to submit and fully participate in the challenge
Basic yeah write guidelines: 1000 word limit; your entry can be dated no earlier than this past Sunday; nonfiction personal essay, creative opinion piece or mostly true story based on actual events.
1. In the sidebar of this week’s post, please grab the code beneath the nonfiction badge and paste it into the HTML view of your entry
2. Follow the Inlinkz instructions after clicking “add your link” to upload your entry to this week’s challenge grid
3. Your entry should appear immediately on the grid if you don’t receive an error message
4. Please make the rounds to read all the entries in this week’s challenge
5. Consider turning off moderated comments and CAPTCHA on your own blog
Submissions for this week’s challenges will close on Wednesday at 10pm ET. Voting will then open immediately thereafter and close on Thursday at 10pm ET. The winners, as always, will be celebrated on Friday.
Thank you for sharing with us your hard work! Good luck in the challenge…