Saturday, September 17, 2011

Break Into Fiction Workshop

Each year, the romance community rallies around Brenda Novak's auction to raise money for juvenile diabetes research. RCRW was luck enough to win the auction for a two-day workshop from Break Into Fiction authors Dianna Love & Mary Buckham. 

Everyone showed up on time (this is HUGE for RCRW) to enjoy the treats Jessie arranged for us. Coffe, juice, pastires, bagels, fruit & yogurt. YUM! We are so motivated my food.

Then it was time to get down to business. Here are the gist of my notes.

BREAK INTO FICTION Power Writing Day with Dianna Love & Mary Buckham

Opening Hooks :: What makes this book break out and intrigue readers? Readers resonate to different hooks. The more hooks you incorporate, the more likely you are to draw a reader in. Action, surprise, raising a question, introducing a new element.

Use hooks in the opening sentence, end of opening paragraph, end of first page, end of third page, end of 3rd chapter, opening a chapter, beginning of every scene, final sentence (when writing a series).

An editor/agent tends to read the first 3 pages and if they like it, they’ll flip to the synopsis to make sure your story is solid. If they like that, they’ll read the 3 chapters.

If you are targeting an agent, editor, line, read books by newer authors to see what hooks work for them.


SCENES are units of action and emotion that stamp indelibly upon one’s awareness. A scene as a unit of conflict, of struggle, lived through by the character and the reader. Multiple points of view dilutes the emotion of the character.

Thank ACTION. The sequel, which is also an element of pacing, is the REACTION

3 functions of a scene

• Move your character toward their goal or show how the goal has changed

• Bring the character into greater conflict

• Strengthens or changes motivation

We spend our whole lives trying to tone down conflict – make the kids and the husband and boss are all happy. If you do that in a novel, nothing is going to happen. To avoid that, you work with scenes, conflict on the page. If your scene is not functioning, it is not working hard enough.

Dwight Swain’s Scene Advice :: Establish a goal that is clear for the character and thus for the reader. Each scene begins with a goal, then comes conflict.

Conflict is what creates the tension on the pages. Great conflict happens when the stakes are high, when the forces of opposition are equal.

When goal meets conflict what must happen next is a DISASTER or COMPLICATION. The STORY QUESTION

SEQUELS : Sequels are the reaction to the preceding scene. They create breathing space.

3 parts of a sequel

• Reaction

• dilemma

• decision

Clarify motivation for your character, and thus for your reader. Sequel clarifies the motivation for the reader.


Use settings to make your sentences do more than one thing. Relate your character to the setting. It can be more than just the description of a place.

Use setting ::
• to share backstory

• in an action sequence

• as a segue in a scene

• to show characterization

• to impact pacing

• to create sensory detail*

• to show emotion

• to create complication

Make setting work hard by ::

1. Add one or more of the 5 senses

2. Add an emotion or reaction

3. Use action in this setting

4. Introduce new information

5. Slip in some backstory

1 comment:

Judith Ashley said...

Thanks, Jenna - Really appreciate your sharing this information as I was working and unable to attend.