Friday, May 11, 2018

Scene Analysis # 1 - Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson


This is the first entry on a series of posts I'm planning to do. I've been doing some copywork exercises, but all were done on the computer. Recently, I decided to do it by hand. Reason for this is accessibility: I don't have to boot up my computer in the morning and do copywork for 30 minutes. Now, I do my copywork during lunchtime at work. It still takes 30 minutes, including highlighting and a quick scene analysis.

Here are shots on a scene I copied from Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson. This scene occurs in the middle of the book, so if you are reading this series, turn away now lest be spoiled (although nothing too breaking).



As a refresher from my copywork blogpost (click here to read the full post), here is the color coding on the highlights:

  • Orange for Action beats
  • Green for Descriptions
  • No highlights for Dialogue
  • Blue for Thoughts
  • Pink for Authorial/Narrator Intrusion
  • Purple for Exposition
  • Yellow for Summary/Transition

The scene begins with an action and then description. From there, dialogue takes over the whole scene. It is a confrontation scene, so not much thoughts or intrusions occur. A thought does happen down the line (Don't screw this up, Kal) although brief. At first, I deliberated on labeling this as an intrusion, but the POV here is Kaladin's. Because of this, Kaladin is imagining what Noro might be thinking.



More dialogue on the 2nd page. There's a break later, a moment of action and introspection (The rest of the table... . Perhaps he was pushing... . He'd never been good... ).



On the 3rd page, we resume the dialogue, and then we hit another moment of introspection with thoughts and intrusion (Storms. She was right. He'd been dancing around serious questions.)


On page 4, we are pulling back a little more. We get to see reactions from the other characters through action and description. By the end of the scene, we are given a cliffhanger, introduced through Kaladin's thoughts (Chasing you?) and then an interrupting action and description (Kaladin cocked his head. Drums sounded... ). 

Scene builds up with Kaladin and Azure internalizing, which is conveyed by the narrator (It took a moment for them, even Kaladin, to register... ). Scene finally ends with an action and a dialogue.


With regards to "Show and Tell," there is a lot of showing and a bit of telling. The telling serves as reactionary beats for the characters. The telling also gives us a moments rest from the action and dialogue. 

On page 1 from the copywork above, if Sanderson had conveyed (Don't screw this up, Kal) with Noro shaking his head and giving Kal a concerned look, it would take more words if he decided to "show" that. It is best to tell in this situation since it would not draw attention to itself. 

Same on page 2. It would be challenging to convey the telling portion (Perhaps he was pushing... . He'd never been good...) by showing it through facial expression, tics or dialogue. The style here is to be quick with the thoughts and intrusion, and then resume the action and dialogue beats. 

I did a quick write-up of the scene structure at the end of page 4, but here is the revised scene structure:
  • GOAL: Kaladin wants to know why Azure is hiding her gender
  • CONFLICT: Azure will try to deflect his questions with questions of her own. The crew will try to dissuade Kaladin by giving him cues.
  • OUTCOME: Will Kaladin know Azure's reason? Yes, but Azure asks if she's being pursued by him
  • REACTION: Kaladin being confused with her question.
  • END: Drums beating, a sign of an attack. 
With every scene structure, I also include the value shifts. Value shifts are a device I adopted from Shawn Coyne's Story Grid, which you can read here: (https://storygrid.com/tracking-the-scene/)

For the above scene here is the value shifts:
  • ( - / + / - )
  • (Distrust / Trust / Danger)
  • (When Azure reveals the truth why she hides her gender // When the drums are sounded)
Usually a scene will have a single shift, but on the example above, there are two shifts. Double shift usually occur in scenes with cliffhangers. The scene starts from a negative emotion of Distrust. The emotion shifts to positive once Azure reveals the truth: Kaladin Trusts Azure because of the revelation. The emotion then becomes negative once the drums sounded, signalling Danger.

Whenever I do my outlines, I organize it by the scene structure and value shifts. So with the above, I would organize it like this:

  • ( - / + / - ) (Distrust / Trust / Danger) (When Azure reveals the truth why she hides her gender // When the drums are sounded)
  • GOAL: Kaladin wants to know why Azure is hiding her gender
  • CONFLICT: Azure will try to deflect his questions with questions of her own. The crew will try to dissuade Kaladin by giving him cues.
  • OUTCOME: Will Kaladin know Azure's reason? Yes, but Azure asks if she's being pursued by him
  • REACTION: Kaladin being confused with her question.
  • END: Drums beating, a sign of an attack.

There you have it folks. The first entry on copywork and scene analysis. Hope you enjoyed it!

As always, keep writing.


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