Studio Writers Share Process

For dramatic impact we must be grounded in place and experience the illusion of real-time passing, which only occurs in scenes. We must live the moment along with the characters, especially in moments of change…While summaries supply the connective tissue, scenes are the blood and breath of fiction, narrative essays, and memoir.”

From Showing vs. Telling by Laurie Alberts 

It went on for sixteen weeks. This teaching on scene. I was studying with Tom Spanbauer in his Dangerous Writing Workshop in SW Portland. In the basement of his rickety old house, the table littered with candles, sugary offerings of brownies and cookies, and various phallus and religious icons, Tom told me and all the other writers to write in scene or moments in time.

“Stay present,” he would say. “Stay close to your moments.”

Others were doing this thing, this “scene writing,” and I knew that they were creating amazing work that held me close and left me with an unnamable longing. But I couldn’t do it, or maybe I wouldn’t for a long time because the specifics of the teaching didn’t make sense.

I’d stumble out of those classes bemused and later, would tell my husband I was never, not ever, going to get it. Scene made no sense.

Then, four months into my studies, I read what felt slow, boring and tedious words.

“You did it! There it is,” Tom said. “A scene.”

That was it for me. Though I still had no idea what I was doing, I continued to write scene after scene and never went back.

Scene is difficult and the learning curve brutal, but once you get this, you are set.

Now it’s your turn…when did you finally manage to write a scene? Share in the comments and know you are helping writers who still struggle. Sharing your process helps everyone. XO J.


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