So, here's the thing! Let's talk about 'Entry and Exit Strategies'. No, I'm not talking about inserting a team (led by Arnold Schwarzenegger) into a fire zone to fight nuclear-powered aliens, I want to waffle for a while about entry and exit strategies into and out of fictional scenes.
Your book has a beginning and an end - you get in, do the business, and get out - simples! In-between, you have any number of scenes (or Chapters for those who don't work in scenes). Well, there's been talk recently about first lines of novels. Here's the 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Now, I don't know about you, but some of those first lines do nothing for me. A first line is meant to make you want to carry on reading, not put the book in a dark corner and cover it over with wood for the fire. I know, sometimes I can be a phillystine! But, life's too short to read books that make your head hurt. Also, here's Stephen King talking about opening sentences
So, let me talk about scenes, because books are built on scenes. Usually, I write between 1 - 5 scenes per chapter of a crime novel. Sometimes, it's difficult starting a scene, but I think that the first line of a scene is just as important as the first line of a book. You're opening and closing doors as you move through the book from the beginning to the end. You lead the reader into the scene, make them part of what's happening, and get the hell out. Getting out and into the next scene is important as well - the transition!
They don't want to leave.
They want to tarry a while. 'Please don't make me leave.'
You pull them by the hand.
They grip the door frame with bleeding fingers.
'I won't go.'
'You have to, my child. It's time. We still have many scenes to go.'
'Will they be as good as this one?'
'They'll be as good.'
You've made a promise, and you have to keep that promise. It's not about word counts, or filling quotas. It's about a story within a story. I'm sure there are people out there who remember the ZX Spectrum or the Commodore 64. The first gaming computers that worked from cassette tapes or floppy discs - the good old days. I used to buy adventure games where you could go from room to room and level to level. Yes, I know, there are games like that - a million times better - for the PS4 etc., but these were new - some based on Dungeons and Dragons - where you had to solve clues, riddles, collect lives, fight monsters etc., until you found the treasure, saved the damsel in distress or the world. Each room was a self-contained environment where you had to work out how to get in and get out.
Scenes are much the same. The reader should step into a scene as if they're climbing into the hollowed-out canoe on the Wet 'N Wild ride. They want to be scared stupid, and when they reached the bottom they wonder how they got there and . . . 'Please, can we go again?'
The exit strategy is just as important. The scene has ended, but the story isn't finished yet. They want to turn the page, but it's two in the morning and they have work . . .
'I'll have a duvet day.'
'You had one of those yesterday.'
'I don't care. I have to read just one more page.'
Hi, I'm Tim Ellis - I write a lot and I hope you enjoy what I write.