Monday, November 1, 2010

Writing Tip #3-Author Jennette Green

Happy Monday! It's a very happy Monday around here. I'm very excited to present to you fellow author Jennette Green.

Jennette's book, Her Reluctant Bodyguard, was referred to me by Rebecca. I read it and fell in love with the book. So I wanted to tell people about it and I thought what a better way than to talk about the book and Jennette on my blog.

I contacted Jennette and she graciously agreed to provide a writing tip and a book for a giveaway. So make a comment and you are entered in the drawing. I can't say enough good things about the book. It is a book that is right up my alley reading wise. Love, a little glitz, a great hero and heroine, romantic settings. Really, does it get much better?

Here's Jennette's writing tip and a some info about Jennette.
Writing Scenes that Pack a Punch

Do you want to grip your readers’ interest from the first page of your book and keep them breathlessly turning pages until the last? Of course you do. Even more important, readers want this, too. They want to be enthralled with each moment of your character’s life. But how do you grab a reader’s attention from the first line and hold it until the last?

The key is to build such compelling scenes that a reader cannot look away.

The best book I’ve ever read on writing scenes is Story, by Robert McKee. This book is actually targeted to screenwriters, but it contains the best advice I’ve ever read on the entire process of writing and putting together a story. Much of the information I’ll share here is from that book, although other bits and pieces are from other sources I’ve read over the years. I highly recommend that you read Robert McKee’s book, as this article barely touches on the practical wisdom he’s packed into Story.

Starting a Scene

Before you start a scene, answer the following questions:
1. What is the purpose of the scene?
2. What does the character want to achieve in the scene?
3. How does she actively try to obtain her goal?
4. What is the scene’s beginning value? Is it negative, or positive? (For example, if Mary is trapped in a pit, it is negative (imprisonment vs. freedom, and perhaps fear vs. bravery, as well).)

When a scene opens, raise a question in the reader’s mind, such as “How is Mary going to escape that deep pit?” Make Mary’s objective clear, and her reasons for pursuing her goal compelling.

Robert McKee states that a scene is a miniature story. It is unified around the character’s desire (her goal), and the action, conflict and change that occurs as a result of Mary pursuing her goal. She must make difficult choices under pressure, and when she does so, she receives a reaction she doesn’t expect. This unexpected outcome is called a “gap.” Gaps turn a scene, which I will explain in the next section.

In our example, Mary decides to try to climb out of the pit. Perhaps she’s terrified of heights, and footholds break away as she begins to climb. She is afraid she will plunge to her death. On the other hand, if she stays in the pit, she will die for sure. No one has visited her in days, and she is so thirsty. What happens next? Will she continue on? Will she fall, or will she escape?
Turning a Scene

Within a scene, think about:
1. How can you make the story matter more?
2. How can you complicate matters for your protagonist?
3. What is the “gap” in the scene? Remember, a gap is the difference between what the character expects, and what actually happens when she makes the effort to achieve her goal.

Perhaps in our story, a foothold breaks away, and Mary falls a good distance and lands hard. However, she discovers she is only bruised. She has broken no bones. She has survived. Mary’s worst fear has come true—she has fallen—but she did not seriously injure herself, which was her deepest fear.

What is the gap in this scene? Simple—Mary fell, but instead of dying, she lived. Now, she knows if she falls she will not necessarily die.

Renewed in confidence, Mary tries again to climb the wall. This time, however, she has learned a few tricks, and will be even more careful. To her surprise, she is not nearly as afraid this time as she climbs.

Now the scene has “turned.” The beginning value of the scene has changed from negative (fear) to positive (bravery). Robert McKee contends that a scene must turn (change in value) from + to – , or vice versa. If the value remains the same, the scene is a nonevent.

Mr. McKee cautions that only action or revelation can turn a scene. “Show, don’t tell,” in other words. By the way, don’t “tell” in dialogue, either. Mr. McKee recommends that writers “dramatize exposition,” and “Convert exposition to ammunition.” (pp. 334-335). Only reveal through dramatization what a reader wants to know.
Ending a Scene

At the end of a scene, raise another story question or complicate the plot. Ideas to include:
1. Make it clear what the heroine wants now.
2. Perhaps leave the heroine in deeper trouble than before.

In our story, Mary makes it to the top of the pit! She has conquered her fear, and she is now free of the pit. (Both negative values at the beginning of the scene are now positive.) She sees a door, and runs for it. Will she escape?

These are the bare bones of writing a scene. However, a scene is only one building block of a novel. A diversity of scenes must be written, which must include varying the negative/positive start values of individual scenes. Scenes sequences must be structured to gradually build and ebb in intensity in order to create the final climax of the story. Pacing is another topic covered brilliantly in Story.

In sum, to grab a reader’s attention and keep it from the first page of your story to the last, write exciting scenes that dramatize real emotions and struggles. As a result, your readers will enthusiastically root for your main character from beginning to end. Make the journey nail-biting, surprising, and most of all meaningful, and you will succeed in gaining fans for life.

Jennette Green

Her Reluctant Bodyguard
The Commander’s Desire

Recommended Reading:
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting, by Robert McKee
Writing the Breakout Novel, by Donald Maass

Jennette's Bio:

Writing has always been a passion of mine. I wrote my first story over thirty years ago. Since then, I've written numerous stories and have had several articles published. My first love, however, is writing romance novels. I write both inspirational and historical romance (with a mild inspirational edge).

In October 2008, my first historical romance, The Commander’s Desire, was published by The Wild Rose Press. It has received numerous accolades, including a "Top Pick" rating from "Romance Reader at Heart" and numerous five star reviews. In addition, the hero of the novel was designated "Reader's Favorite Hero" for 2009 at a popular blog. I'm excited to announce that The Commander's Desire will soon be translated into Thai and published in Thailand!

I am blessed with a wonderful, supportive husband, and three terrific children who put up with my crazy writing hours. When I am not writing, I love reading, photography, making videos, and creating and managing my websites.

Lindi here: A big thank you to Jennette! She shared a lot of important information with us. And trust me, Jennette knows how to write scenes that pack a punch!

Lindi Peterson
Happy Endings Are Just The Beginning

Don't forget to leave a comment to be entered in the drawing for Jennette's book Her Reluctant Bodyguard. (Don't you just LOVE the cover!!!)


  1. Jeannette, thank you so much for being with us today! What a great writing tip. I've been meaning to pull this book out and give it a re-read, but you've given me a nice lesson from it already! Thanks so much for explaining it so well.

    Congrats on your book! I always listen when Lindi says she really loves a book. I can't wait to read yours!

  2. Jeannette, great writing tips. Thanks for posting them. I'm going to put your book on TBR list. Congratulations on your book.

  3. Oh, I just loved "Her Reluctant Bodyguard". Loved, loved. It's right up there with "Redeeming Love" for me. Fantastic book.

    Thanks for the tips, Jennette. And thanks for writing such a great book! :-)

  4. Hey, Ciara! :) Thanks for stopping by. Lindi will be on this evening. Blogger is blocked at her workplace!

  5. Rebecca, thanks so much for recommending it! I'm looking forward to it.

  6. Hi Jeannette:

    “Story” has always been my favorite writing book! I read it when I was doing copywriting full time because an ad writer must capture the reader’s attention and keep it to the end of the ad. (I often wrote long direct mail ads.)

    “Story” is also available on tape and I listen to it every once in a while and learn something new each time. I think you ‘hear’ different things than you ‘see’ when you read. People who love this book should try the tape.

    Now I want to read, “Her Reluctant Bodyguard” to see how you created your scene tension.

    Wonderful post. Thanks.


  7. Good morning! Thank you so much, Lindi, for having me on your blog! I am very excited to be here.

    Missy, Ciara, Rebecca and Vince, thank you so much for your comments. I'll be stopping back throughout the day. If anyone has any questions, I'll be happy to try to answer. :)

    Vince, I'm so glad to hear how much you've found Story to be helpful, too. It's definitely one of the best books on writing I've ever read.

  8. Great tips on scene writing. Jennette thank you for joining us. And Lindi thank you for inviting Jennette. Sounds like a great book!

  9. Ciara--thanks for joining us. And yes, Her Reluctant Bodyguard should be on your list.

    I'm reading the book you recommended to me right now. The Highest Stakes.
    Good book! I'm loving Devington.

  10. Rebecca,

    Thanks for the recommendation. You know how much I appreciated it. Word of mouth is great advertising!!
    Thanks for stopping by.

  11. Vince,

    I know you'll love the book as well. There are some how-to books that just tell how to well! Story is one of those.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  12. Jenn and Missy--Hi there! I'm glad you guys enjoyed the writing tip. I hope you have a chance to read Jennette's book if you haven't read it yet.

  13. Jennette,

    Hi!! Thanks again for a wonderful blogging day here on F.A.I.T.H. We really appreciate all you shared with us.
    And I think we've made a new friend.
    Thank you again!

  14. That's a great way of explaining scenes! Really appreciated this new view of it.

    Thank you,

  15. Hi Ang!! It is a great way, isn't it?

  16. Thanks for the great tip, Jeanette. I would love to read your book.

  17. I really appreciate these writing tips! I'll be rereading my wip looking for + and - . Thanks Jeanette for being here and Lindi for hosting you!

  18. Thank you, Jennifer, Angela, Dianna and Eva, for stopping by, and for your encouraging words. I am so glad that the article will be of help to you! Like many of you, I have been writing for many years, but it wasn't until a few years ago, after reading "Story," and a few other wonderful books, that I really began to see how to take my writing to the next level. (Perhaps I'm a slow learner! LOL) Anyway, I'm glad the article can be of some help to you. :)

    God bless,


  19. Lindi,

    Thank you again, so much, for taking the time to have me on your blog! I feel privileged to have been able to be here.

    God bless,

    :) Jennette

  20. Thanks for sharing your writing tip, Jennette! The book sounds great!

    Lindi, I had a comment on my Facebook from Patsy Jones Smith, who said "Very Interesting." Can we include Patsy in the drawing as well?

  21. Dianna!! You're here. I miss you. Thanks for coming by. You would really like Jennette's book.

  22. Eva,
    Great to see you! Glad you stopped by. Jennette shared some really great information.

  23. Jennette,

    You are welcome here anytime. I know we would love to have you share again with us in the future. Be looking for a guest blogger request from me!!

    Thanks for making Monday a fun one.

    I will announce the winner of Jennette's book next Monday in my post.