On Monday I posted a template for beginning a scene that I called You Statements. Of course, you statements can be used effectively at nearly any point in a scene. Come to a dead end? Observe your partner and make a you statement. Notice your scene partner having a specific reaction to something? Make a you statement. Feel disconnected from your scene partner? You statement.
But this is not the only good way to start a scene. Here is another one I like.
- One person starts an activity
- Enter the stage and begin a simple activity. One that implies a specific location is always good. Examples are washing dishes, eating a meal, working on a car, folding laundry, typing at a desk, reading a book.
- Second person joins the activity
- Enter the space very soon after the first person settles into their activity. And start doing the same activity with them. Don’t just do something complimentary, really do whatever they are doing. If they are sitting and reading a book, do the same. If the first person is painting a picture, set up an easel next to them. Don’t be their teacher or their model. Do the same thing.*
- First person stakes out a point of view
- This can be about anything, but should not be about the activity at hand. Do one thing and talk about something else. Talk about anything under the sun and state your (character’s) point of view about it.
- Yes-and the point of view
- The second person should respond as if they agree and then in some small way add to the point of view.
- Continue yes-anding the point of view
- You don’t have to heighten the hell out of it. Just add some detail. Add some specifics. Build the point of view one step at a time with your scene partner.
From here, the scene can go in lots of directions. Sometimes the point of view will continue to build and eventually become so strange that one character peels off and decides that they don’t feel the same as the first. Sometimes they will share the same point of view throughout the scene. The way to keep this scene fresh is to keep bringing up new things to talk about and see how the point of view applies to these other topics of conversation.
This scene template can also work with you statements. Instead of stating a point of view in step three, say a you statement about your scene partner and yes-and from there. Observing behavior, you statements, stating points of view, emotional responses and yes-anding are all building blocks that you can mix and match to make a great scene.
* I really do mean do the same thing. I’m sure you realize that you can make a perfectly good scene from one person reading the paper and another person sweeping the floor. Or if one person is working on a car, another person can be writing a sonnet nearby. But your first instinct should be to join the activity always. Subtle complimentary activities can work for the exercise however. For instance, if one person is washing the dishes and another person is drying them.