(This post is part of our ongoing series The Family History Blog to Book Project.)
Scenes can be a single chapter, or a chapter can contain several scenes. It’s the call of the writer how they wish to organize their book. But organize we must. For our blog to book project every blog post will be a scene in your family history story.
Every scene needs to deliver a piece of the story. Every scene has a mission just like every blog post.
If you can write a blog post, you can write a scene to a story. (You might want to tweet that)
Below I have outlined 10 steps to creating a scene that will also behave as a blog post. Your scenes will be able to stand alone as an individual blog posts on your family history blog but also they will serve as a scene in your family history story.
Step 1 – Ask what happens in this scene. What is the purpose of your scene? What piece of the story is this particular scene going to reveal. Refer to your outline, you have one right? In that outline you should have identified the chapters, and each chapter should have a list of scenes. Now write one or two sentences that will describe this particular scene.
Step 2- Determine if this scene is crucial to telling your family history story. How will it move the story along? Make each scene count, each scene should move your family history story forward. You should be aiming to incorporate only those things into your blog that serve the purpose of your larger story. Whether that is to move the plot along, enhance your theme, build your ancestor’s character, or foreshadow what’s to come.
Make a bullet point list for everything you hope to accomplish within this scene. As you sit down to do the actual writing, things often change, but the goals keep you on target. If don’t end up including a piece of information in a scene, make a note of it so that you can try to remember to include that “goal” in a later scene.
Step 3- Identify which ancestors will be present in this blog post. You want to be sure to only bring necessary ancestors to the party. Don’t force ancestors into a scene where they don’t belong just because you feel the need to make sure every ancestor gets their day. This is very difficult for genealogists, we have a no ancestor left behind mentality. But when it comes to writing your family history story keep them in context with your story and plot line.
Each scene is an opportunity to illuminate your characters. Your earliest blog posts will focus a lot on the characteristics of your ancestors as we get to know them. Use each scene as an opportunity to demonstrate to the reader an aspect of your ancestor’s character.
Step 4 – Identify the setting for your scene. Seems obvious, but the trick is not to make it too obvious. You don’t want the scene to read like a inventory of the setting. Have your ancestor interact with the setting. Make sure the setting doesn't come all at once. Your goal is to use your 5 senses to really draw the reader deeply into your ancestor’s world all the while establishing a setting without stopping to describe it.
Step 5 – Make sure you have the 3 essential elements of every good scene. – Every scene should contain a place, a timeframe and a change that moves the story forward. Every time your story changes place, or time frame you have a new scene.
Step 6- Start your scene with a hook. Like every good story starts with a hook. every great scene needs a good hook. Decide on where to start. Brainstorm the beginning of the scene. Every blog post needs a good hook to capture your reader. Think out 2 or 3 possible options to start the scene, don't just go with the first thing that pops into your head. A good place to start…in the middle. You have options, draw out the purpose of your story with a big lead up or cut to the chase. Each scene needs to deliver the best possible reader experience while serving the larger story.
Step 7- End your blog post with a hook. The reader should be propelled into the next scene. You need to identify your ending so that it transitions well into your next blog post. The ending of your scene should seem like a natural place for the reader to rest. The ending should wrap up the scene, and remember it’s when the change occurs. Your ending could take the form of a cliffhanger, or a question or a statement. But it’s always important to leave them wanting more so they’ll come back tomorrow for your next blog post. These will become the page turners in your book. Of course by determining the ending of your blog post you will have completed two missions, you will have fulfilled the purpose of this scene and you will have established the mission of the next scene.
Step 8- Make a movie in your mind. Play out the scene like a movie in your mind and then jot it down in bullet points creating an detailed outline of the scene as you see it. This way you won’t forget a thing and you can write freely without worrying about losing an important point.
Step 9 – Write the scene out in full. Once you made that bullet point list, begin to write until you have captured your scene and everything you have outlined in the scene.
Step 10- Repeat. Repeat this several hundred times and you’ll have a family history blog filled with your family history stories but you’ll also be ready to easily transition them into a family history book.
A few extra tips:
Try to work on your scenes in advance so you have time to go back and revise and edit. Some scenes maybe long and perhaps will extend past a 500-800 word blog post. You are in control. Fee free to have a long blog post or split that scene up into a Part 1 and Part 2 if necessary. There are no hard and fast rules hear. Be flexible and follow your creative juices.
The goal of The Family History Blog to Book Project is that once you have written every blog post you’ll have completed your first draft manuscript of your family history story.