Enter our challenge and stand a chance to win a writing course
All About Writing’s latest writing challenge offers the winner a place on our creative writing Coaching Programme: Focus on scenes. It’s a fourteen step programme with your own personal writing coach. We’ll tackle a number of different issues involved in writing compelling scenes.
Your perspective character finds a body – he or she could be a detective, but doesn’t have to be. The body appears to be the victim of an unlawful killing.
Describe this scene, using specific details, dialogue, internal reflection and/or action, in such a way as to move your story forward, incite suspense in your reader and possibly give us some insight into your perspective character (and perhaps the dead character – though this is not essential).
In order to build suspense, try to include small unexplained hints and clues that might help you construct a mystery down the line. Remember, vivid details, described using all of your character’s senses, will give us a good sense of the scene, as well as both characters – dead and alive.
Your entry should be no more than 250 words long. Paste it into the body of an email and send it to email@example.com by midnight 31 May 2018.
The strongest writing “shows” us things. It doesn’t explain and interpret for the reader. In other words, don’t tell your us something is “revolting”. Show us the glutinous fluid around which flies are buzzing. We will shudder and feel that it’s “revolting” much more strongly than if you merely told us.
The way to show readers a scene is to use all your perspective character’s senses – including sight, sound, feel, smell and possibly taste – all of which brings a scene vividly to life. Strong specific details tell us much about the time and place, as well as character. What a person wears, how they react, what they carry in their pocket or handbag…all these things tell us much about who they are.
A character who describes a scene doesn’t only show us his surroundings. He shows us about himself. Think about a hardened detective finding a body as opposed to a 16-year-old who has never seen violence. Each will notice different things. Their bodies will react in different ways.
Here is the start to Steven Kelman’s Pigeon English, in which a young boy sees the body of a stabbed schoolboy. Notice how much we learn about the boy, his age, his horrified fascination, at the same time as we learn about the scene of the crime, and the time and place in which it occurs: