Dramatic scenes: the conflict and the characters in them
| Successful fiction writing presents the story in successive scenes, linked like a chain. Unlike some of the scenes that may be expository or may present flavor and pizzazz, each dramatic scene should belong to a character, but not necessarily to the protagonist even if the protagonist is present in the scene. |
Each scene may emphasize a character of a subplot, the antagonist, or the protagonist. That character has some conflict either inside him or his conflict is with others or some part of life. It is up to the writer to decide before he starts constructing a scene which character will drive that scene and will evoke emotion in the reader.
In Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca, some scenes in the first few chapters belong to Mrs. Van Hopper who has no bearing on the real plotline, but her presence and her command of those scenes play a significant role in the overall success of the story, because they help to explain the prevailing doubt and inferiority complex of the main character. In the same story, some scenes belong to Maxim de Winter, others to the second Mrs. de Winter, yet still a good number of them to Mrs. Danvers or even to other secondary characters with subplots of their own.
Also, if the events of a dramatic scene follow the commanding character's last moment in a previous scene or some event of the previous scene, the flow of the story will be successful. In the present scene, a character's previous approach or attitude decides what this character desires the most or is fighting tooth and nail for. A character's previous moment gives a clue to his attitude, so the approach with that attitude can flow into the present scene to affect the construction of the present scene.
In Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, the scenes with Elvis's ghost are sometimes followed by other scenes with other ghosts in it. This doesn't mean all following scenes have to have ghosts in them; hence, in some ghost scenes, Odd Thomas is present, so the next scene with Odd Thomas as the commanding character may follow.
Like the main conflict of the story, the conflict inside a scene is most successful if it is inside a character, forced on him by the outside, or against another character. A verbal altercation between characters that leads to no explanation or resolution is not conflict. Novice writers usually take verbal altercations as conflict whereas real conflict is an obstruction to the desire or goal inside the scene, or in other words, the goal is what is to be won or lost for a character or situation in the present scene. Then, if what the character wants is given to him easily, there is no conflict in the scene and the drama is lost, because the objective of a dramatic scene is the conflict, its strength, and how it is resolved.
Also, in successive dramatic scenes, what happens to a character and especially to the main character is important; therefore, positive and negative events should be used interchangeably but without a certain pattern to avoid monotony. For example, if a man wanted by the authorities is on the lam, he may succeed to escape in some scenes and may be caught in others with variations between the scenes.
When the commanding characters' attitudes and actions in dramatic scenes fit in well with the overall expression of the plotline, the story will charm, impress, and persuade the reader.