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ARISE Method of Scene Construction


Noland Editing Crime Fiction and Speculative fiction editor and ghostwriter


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ARISE, my author friends!

 

I’m not talking about waking up, but about the ARISE method of writing scenes.

 

ARISE stands for:

 

  • Action

  • Relationship

  • Information

  • Suspense

  • Emotion

 

The ARISE method is to include at least three of these in each scene.

 

A scene could involve two characters chatting away (action) in a café. Their dialogue or subtext should reveal something about the characters, especially their emotional reactions (emotion) to what is going on around them and the relationship (relationship) the characters have with one another. A character could create a new problem the main character must solve (suspense), and every scene should reveal setting and ‘facts’ (information).

 

Action

 

Action can be a character physically moving or dialogue.

 

It’s best to start and end each scene with some type of action. Without action, there is no scene. It’s probably just backstory.

 

So, watch for places where nothing or almost nothing happens to move the plot forward and change the scenes to further the plot.  

 

Relationship

 

Characters interactions with other characters show their relationship.

 

Witty banter will show your readers the characters have a friendly relationship or that they had one in the past.

 

Sarcasm may show tension between the characters.

 

Body language like furtive glances, angry stares, turning away from someone when giving them bad news, and standing tall before a superior all show the relationship dynamics through subtext.

 

Even internal thoughts can reveal more about the character’s relationship, especially when what is being said by the character doesn’t match their actual feelings about the person they are with.  

 

Information

 

Information can be given to the reader through dialogue but also within the narrative.

 

Setting descriptions and some facts about characters’ backstories will be told to the reader, delivered as facts by the narrator. Whether your narrator is reliable or not, is up to you, but they will still reveal information which dialogue and action cannot.

 

Be careful when delivering information that it is mixed in with the action.

 

Personally, I like to have an action, then a sentence or two of information, then another action.

 

When information is delivered in small pieces, the reader won’t be overwhelmed by a paragraph or two, or more, of backstory. Instead, you will be entertaining them and informing them.

 

Done well, the reader won’t even notice what you’re doing.

 

Revealing information poorly is much more noticeable because the reader will become bored.

And we don’t want that!

 

Suspense

 

Suspense is created by conflict. It creates questions in the reader’s mind.

 

How will the characters get out of a situation or solve a problem?

When will they solve the problem?

Why did a character put a roadblock in the main character’s way?

Why did the main character put a roadblock in their own way?

 

All suspense is based on some kind of conflict, whether it’s external or internal.

 

Emotion

 

Revealing emotion is often overlooked and sometimes delivered in a factual manner. Factual manner-type delivery will not evoke the same level of emotions in your reader that showing them can.  

 

“He was sad” won’t make the reader feel much. But “his throat tightened” will probably make the reader feel that tightening and because of what surrounds this short sentence will give the reader context.

 

Characters usually show their emotions through emotional responses. Something happens that triggers their emotional response, but emotional responses will be shown through physical responses.

Having three or more of the elements of ARISE will make your scenes entertaining and your readers will keep turning the page. And that’s what everyone wants—you and your readers.

 

Let’s take a look at a short scene.

 

Fire licked my kitchen windows. I dropped the water bucket, lifted the bottom of my skirt, and ran toward our house.

 

“Bel!” I scanned the baren front yard, then glanced over my shoulder at the barn. She couldn’t be in the barn. I was just there. 

 

“Bel!”

 

The flames stretched out and up the gray wood planks to the second floor. (I damned the old farmhouse for being such a tinderbox, but I couldn’t afford anything else.

 

“Ezabel. Where are you?” My heart pounded in my chest. My legs already burned from the effort. Just a few more seconds, and I’d reach the porch. I would definitely go in. Wouldn’t I?

 

“Mommy. I’m over here.” Bel was dancing near the gnarled tree, swinging her rag doll by her side. I would have sworn she wasn’t there a moment ago.

 

“Sweetheart.” I grabbed her and squeezed tight. “I was worried about you,” I said, lifting her onto my hip. As we ran up toward the road, her cheek pressed to mine, I both thanked and cursed the heavens above.


Let's take a look at this and break it down to see how this scene hits all five of the ARISE elements.


Fire licked my kitchen windows. (Action and Suspense) I dropped the water bucket, lifted the bottom of my skirt, and ran toward our house. (Action)

 

“Bel!” I scanned the baren front yard, then glanced over my shoulder at the barn. (Action) She couldn’t be in the barn. I was just there. (Information)

 

“Bel!”

 

The flames stretched out and up the gray wood planks to the second floor. (Action) I damned the old farmhouse for being such a tinderbox, but I couldn’t afford anything else. (Action and Information)

 

“Ezabel. Where are you?” My heart pounded in my chest. My legs already burned from the effort. (Information and Emotion) Just a few more seconds, and I’d reach the porch. (Information) I would definitely go in. Wouldn’t I? (Relationship and Suspense)

 

“Mommy. I’m over here.” Bel was dancing near the gnarled tree, swinging her rag doll by her side. (Action) I would have sworn she wasn’t there a moment ago. (Information)

 

“Sweetheart.” I grabbed her and squeezed tight. (Emotion) “I was worried about you,” I said, lifting her onto my hip. As we ran up toward the road, her cheek pressed to mine, I both thanked and cursed the heavens above. (Action, Emotion, Relationship, Suspense)


I hope you see how the elements of ARISE fit into this scene and how they are mixed together.

 

Remember your scenes should have at least three elements of ARISE.

 

Action

Relationship

Information

Suspense

Emotion

  

I hope you enjoyed this post.

 

I edit speculative fiction and crime fiction. If you have a manuscript ready for editing, contact me.

 

Not ready yet? Get writing and editing tips sent to you every month by signing up for my newsletter.

 

Happy Writing and Revising!

 

Kristin Noland – Speculative fiction and crime fiction editor

 

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