Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Makes a Scene Memorable? Frankly, my dear.....

Wouldn't we all like to write Memorable Scenes? Or maybe even just one?

There is a difference, however, between Memorable and Remembered.

I remember countless scenes from books I've read or movies I've seen, but very few, if any, became Memorable.

So, how does an author write a true Memorable scene? I contend it can't be done logically or intellectually. A true Memorable scene just happens.
Most novels I've read have not stayed with me. If I cannot recall the plot of a story, I suppose I enjoyed it while reading, but forgot about it when finished.

Examples of scenes I remember:

The Outsider by Penelope Williamson. Scene: When the gunshot gunslinger who walked to widow Rachel's farm emerges from her cabin, appearing fit, with a gun in his hand and told the men who had come to take her land to leave. Rachel is a Plain woman, and the gun startles her, and yet she welcomes his interference. I remember it from the movie and the book, because the gunslinger has gathered all his strength to rise from his bed and pretend nothing is wrong. Good scene, but not Memorable.

This Calder Range by Janet Dailey: In this first novel of a long series, Charles Benteen Calder takes his new bride, his Lorna, on the long treacherous journey to Montana to homestead. Lorna does not take the journey very well, being a pampered young woman, and on one long dry stretch, Calder instructs his men and Lorna that they could have only one cup of water per day until they crossed the barren land. Now, Lorna had brought cuttings from a rose bush with her, completely against Benteen's orders, and until now, she'd managed to keep the cloth around the cuttings damp. But now, she has only one cup, and Benteen catches her dribbling a few drops on her precious rose cuttings. He goes into a rage and throws the cuttings as far as he can into the darkness, and into the weeds and grass. She screams and runs out to find the pieces, and on her hands and knees, she tries to gather them up. He won't allow it, and wrestles her to the ground.  From then on, Lorna holds a grudge against her new husband. The story is so good, and I easily recall this scene.
The only thing that keeps it from being Memorable is the number of people who have read it. I think it's a great scene and sets the stage for a lifelong battle between the man and the woman.

Another remembered scene: In St. Agnes' Stand when the man rides away and leaves the little boy, and the little boy runs after him, crying, "Take me with youuuuu!" Breaks my heart every time.

Memorable Scenes: Of course, the last scene in the movie Gone With the Wind qualifies. I think without a doubt Rhett's last words to Scarlet, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." was Memorable. Scarlet had plenty of good scenes, and I remember and recall almost all of them. But even her raised fist to Heaven scene, in which she says, "I will never go hungry again!", does not rank as Memorable.

Oliver Twist: The young boy says, "Please, sir, I want some more." Why is this Memorable? Because of the horror of what the man does to the child, and the words said, adding that the boy would be hung. Who can read that and not feel rage and hatred for the man, and pity and admiration for the boy?

A scene that becomes Memorable, in my opinion, has shock value and enormous emotion.
Also, the number of times it is repeated probably helps make it Memorable.

These quotes are from Memorable scenes in movies, and perhaps were books first:
"Here's looking at you, kid."
"I couda been a contender."
"Make him an offer he can't refuse."
"You talkin' to me?"
"Shane! Come back!"
"You can't handle the truth."

Remember these scenes? They're listed as Memorable.
Mrs. Robinson's leg shot.
The Box of Chocolates scene.
The girl in the red coat.
The shower scene.

Apparently we remember visual scenes better than we do those we read. Probably, the level of the reader's memory coupled with the number of times it's repeated makes the scene Memorable.
I've read so many books, I'm certain there were some Memorable scenes in some of them.

What have I missed?
Do you recall a Memorable scene in a book you've read?
Do you think you've written a Memorable scene?

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
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Monday, July 15, 2013

The Personal Touch--Is It Necessary?


When I was growing up, I know my mother wrote handwritten letters, birthday cards, thank you notes, and get well notes. She didn't teach me to send handwritten notes. However, I inherently knew it was the right thing to do. In addition, we did not have computers and smart phones.

When I had children and my mother sent birthday presents or Christmas presents, I taught my young daughter and son to hand-write thank-you letters.

"Dear Granny-thank you for the Chatty Cathy. I love it with all my heart. Love, A."

"Dear Papa-Thank you for the toy wagon made of spools and popsicles sticks. I want to make one, too, if Mommy will help me. Love, B."

"Dear Papa--I am sorry you are sick. If you don't get well, I'm going to tell Granny to give you a spanking. Love, B."

When my sisters and I cleaned out our mother's house over a decade ago, we learned that she had saved every single thing--every card from anyone, every note from a grandchild, and every letter from endless people. Those bits of memorabilia made me realize how important those were to her. And guess what? Now, I have those in a box in my house.

So, to my great surprise, our son taught his three young sons to write thank you notes to us for birthday presents and/or money.

"Dear Grandmother and Granddad--Thank you for the money. I don't know what to buy. Maybe food. I am hungry."

"Dear Grandmother and Granddad--8th grade is a whole lot better than 7th. Thank you for the gift."

"Dear Grandmother and Granddad--Thank you for the money. Here is a drawing of a robot arm. Me and Mom haven't built it yet."

"Dear Grandmother and Granddad--Thank you for the help at Christmas. I got new pants, a sodering kit, candy, and a nap. I really needed the nap. School starts real early. More learning, less sleeping."

Sure, I do receive fun or pretty email Christmas cards and birthday cards, and I do love those. I receive emails saying, "Happy Birthday to you. I hope your day is fun."
I even receive text messages sent from a smart phone: "I hop ur da is gd--HB fm me."

Okay, I guess that's where I draw the line.
I would so hate for our population to lose The Personal Touch.
If I receive flowers for my birthday, I love those even more because it was A Personal Touch.

If I receive a note card in the mail, thanking me for the pecan pie I sent for the family gathering after a funeral, I feel so blessed and grateful they enjoyed my pie. And I loved The Personal Touch.

One reason I love to write romances set in Nineteenth Century or early Twentieth Century is that the characters must write real letters. Personally written letters are treasured, as witnessed out in Fort Davis in the far western part of Texas. Inside the crumbling buildings of the old fort, you will find many handwritten  letters that wives sent to their soldier husbands, and some that were sent home from wives who lived at the Fort. Oh, those personal thoughts are so wonderful to read.

Listen, I love email and FB and internet websites as well as anyone, but when it comes to something personal and very important, I dig through my boxes of cards I buy at the Half-Price Book Store, choose something particular for the person, write my note, find the address, a stamp, and a return address label--selected just for that person. Bluebonnets for Betty Jack. Cardinals on a tree limb for Katie.

You see?
When I write a story and the character must write an important letter, I become very focused on the contents. It may be delivered by pony express, or the train, or by a commercial wagon train. And I must write it in the tone and way a female might have written a letter.

In a WIP I've titled "A Live Worth Living," it begins with a letter a young mother writes to mother and father.

Dearest Mama and Daddy,
I write this letter in hopes you are well. Our lives are in turmoil these days, with the sickness surrounding us with its horror and grim results. Only yesterday, Mrs. Carson passed, leaving her grieving husband and four little ones to cope alone. The day before, three members of the community succumbed, after days of horrific pain and suffering. Because we have no physician, no man or woman can identify the cause. Some say it is from the same invasive thing that causes pneumonia, or something in the air, but others believe infected persons pass it along.

Garland and I try as best we can to keep far away from the foul air the others breathe, but the task is impossible, at best. Baby Irene and little Susanna are healthy as of this hour, but I worry each time Garland goes from the house and returns, fearful he has brought home upon his person the invisible sickness, the dreaded Spanish influenza, it is called, with vomiting, chills, and fever.
Our pastor has questioned God concerning His purpose of this wrath upon our frail human bodies, and that is his right as a spokesman for Our Lord. I dare not raise an objection, being a lowly woman of the earth. I have no knowledge or say in the matter.

The heat has been oppressive, as to almost unbearable for October. For some reason or another, I believe in my heart that a cold wind from the north would quell the spread of this death and horror.

The bright and glorious news of the peace agreement that ended the disastrous World War somehow creates within us a calm we have not felt for a long time. A cruel twist of fate, however, is news of our soldiers returning home, only to find their families devastated by death from the influenza. Ryan Colbert came home unscathed by the war, only to find his mother and sister in graves, as they passed from the vile disease. I can name many others, as well, but I have neither the time nor the space to relate the stories to you. I know you, there at home, suffer as we do here in North Texas.

Yesterday, I picked the garden clean of the last of the vegetables—a few almost ripe tomatoes, some pods of overgrown okra, and a bucket full of blackeyed peas, their pods yellow and tough, but still holding the precious vegetable inside. Tonight, we will eat bowls of hot peas cooked with bacon and onions. Thank you, Mama, for teaching me to cook so well. I do believe that is the reason Garland loves me so, even though he laughs and tells me it is my black hair he loves the most.

I do confess I have not been well for a couple of days, but I believe it is nothing more than the heat and damp air. Others in the community have complained of a general restlessness and fatigue, which leads me to believe the reason is only the seasonal malaise.

Do take care, and know I love you with all my heart. Try not to worry so. All anyone or I can do is place our trust in God and live one day at a time.

Your loving daughter,
This letter portrays how Teresa lives, how she feels physically, and her hopes for calm and peace to return to the world.

Do you write letters into your novels?

You see that I am of somewhat of the Old School, that I still send hand written notes and cards. I write plenty on-line, too, but there are moments that call for The Personal Touch.

Thank you for reading!

Celia Yeary...Romance Author