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
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/author/celiayeary
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  1. Celia, I agree with you -- and some of these I have not read yet, but the little boy in St. Agnes' Stand always comes to mind as "memorable" as does Rhett and Scarlett's final scene. The final scene in the movie, Shane, is memorable--"SHANE! COME BACK!" but it never happened in the book. I don't believe I've ever written any scene that would be remembered as some of these would be. Another memorable scene to me, is in To Kill a Mockingbird, in front of the jail when the lynch mob is getting ready to try to get past Atticus, and Scout diffuses the situation when she runs over and says "hey" to her classmate's dad (among other things). And also in that movie when everyone stands up and Scout is told to "stand up, child. Your father's passin'." This is a good post. Makes you think about memorable scenes in books and in movies, and what makes them that way!

  2. Cheryl--I did remember the scene in which Scout is told to "standup, child. Your father's passin." Gives you goose bumps, doesn't it.
    I found list after list, and it was hard to choose just a few. I remember so many more from movies and books.

  3. I agree that movie scenes have stuck with me longer than written words. For me, psychological impact (and age) are also factors. Hitchcock movie scenes still rattle around in my head as memorable, as does Casablanca, and many of the Franck Capra films. I guess memorable is directly connected to the emotions elicited. Given the impact words and images convey, why do we allow so much "entertainment" junk?

    You got me thinking today - thanks!

  4. I'm remembering Sylvester Stylonne (spelling?) in the first Rocky movie yelling for Adrienne.

    The memorable lines/scenes catch us up in the emotion of the moment. They grab a visceral, vulnerable part of us and connect on many levels.

    I can only hope that some day I will write a brilliant line or scene that can be described as Memorable.

    Great post!

  5. Does it count if you remember a whole book? A gazillion years ago I read Kathleen Woodiwiss' book Shana. It left such a good taste in my mouth that it kept me reading and got me into writing. I can almost picture the whole story in my mind.

  6. I have several memorable scenes from books I've read:
    PRINCE CHARMING by Julie Garwood when Taylor Stapleton (who idolizes a mountain man named Montana)realizes the man she married IS Montana
    FALLON by Louis L'Amour when the con man realizes he has become a hard-working community leader
    FOR THE ROSES by Julie Garwood when the orphans rescue the baby from the rubbish just before the rats get her.
    I reread these books, by the way. I love other scenes that are memorable to me but there's no space.

  7. Great blog, Celia. No time to add more than have already been mentioned. It seems to me the most memorable are scenes that leave something unfinished or not finished the way we had hoped for. An emotion that twists our hearts. I think very few if any HEA scenes would make the cut.

  8. Who doesn't remember the shower scene in Psycho?

    Morgan Mandel

  9. I read so many scenes that took my breath away with their poignant meaning, and yet, I can recall them now. Weird, huh?
    But I do remember movie and TV scenes that dug into my heart. When Doc Holiday lay dying and Wyatt's last words to him were, "Thanks for always being there."
    I guess most of us hope that we'll write a scene or words that will be memorable to a reader, but there's no way to really know if we've succeeded. If I knew that anything I ever wrote became memorable to just one person, I could go the The Great Door a very happy person.

  10. Ashantay--I couldn't agree more about the "junk" out there today. I just cannot believe it.
    We need more good movies and books and less bang and crash and explode. Where are the memorable scenes in those?
    Thanks for visiting me today--I appreciated it.

  11. Maggie--yes, and Marlon Brando yelling,"Stelllllla!!!"
    Same kind of scene, yet different.
    I agree, I like the visceral pull watching a scene. In the recent La Miserable, the first scene in which he sings "Look down, look down," all the while looking up at his nemesis, daring to disobey. Wow, I get cold chills from that right now.

  12. Paisley--oh, sure it counts if you remember the whole book. Me, too...I can remember The Hellion, And Then Came Heaven, and many others. Now that's what makes a book really good. That we can remember the whole thing.
    I love your visits to my blog--thanks.

  13. Caroline--you've remembered some I never read. Maybe I should go find those! Thanks for coming by.

  14. Linda--you have a good point. Those we truly remember best are often those that end tragically or have much tragedy in them. I'm thinking of Titanic, Casablanca, and so many more.
    Thank you for visiting.

  15. Morgan--I can't even think of that shower scene without shuddering. I am such a fraidy cat, I wonder how I watched it.
    Like Rosemary's Baby--"His eyes! What have you done to its eyes!" Ooooh, cold chills Scary as can be.

  16. Sarah--yes, I know. Scenes I have written that I think would be really good seem to go over reader's heads. However, I don't recall anyone pointing out a specific scene in on of my books. Hmmm, maybe that tells me something.
    Thank you for coming by!

  17. Celia, you are doing terrible things to my TBR pile lately, lady! :-D I need to read ST. AGNES' STAND. I've heard wonderful things about it and never read it.

    Several bits from THE PRINCESS BRIDE are memorable for me: Westley responding "As you wish" to Buttercup's every whim; Count Vizini's "Inconceivable!" every time something thoroughly predictable happened, and Inigo's running refrain, "My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." (I read the book long before I saw the movie, and oddly, the movie was faithful to the book.)

    "The Cremation of Sam McGee" became memorable for me because my father read it aloud to us kids when we were little. He acted out all the voices, and he read it so often I STILL have the poem memorized. Most memorable, though, is right near the end: The narrator looks into the furnace and finds Sam sitting among the flames. He's been cold every since he and his pals headed north to mine for gold in Alaska, and Sam says, "Please close that door."

    What a great post. So many wonderful memories reside in books, don't they?

  18. What comes to my mind is the scene in The Birds, where they come into view a few at a time until suddenly--there are hundreds. Eeek! I can't honestly say though, that there is a book scene that is memorable to me. Many that I remember. Writing memorable would be awesome! Good post, Celia!

  19. Kathleen--you list is very interesting--I would never have thought of any of those.
    You must read St. Agnes' Stand-Cheryl insisted I read it and I'm very glad she did. It's not very long--easy read.
    Thank you for stopping by.

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  21. Carra--oh, The Birds! Of course.
    Yes, writing this post made me realize the most memorable scenes are from visuals, not books. Although, I could recall some I would consider memorable, given a little time.

  22. For me, the most memorable scenes are the ones which make me catch my breath, and strike some deep cord inside me. For me, it's when Jane Eyre goes to Ferndean and is reunited with her beloved Mr. Rochester. I like happy endings, not sad ones!

  23. Paula--You're spot on, as far as I'm concerned. I want to either laugh, or cry, or punch my fist in the air and say, Yesss!
    Make me feel something, and I will remember the story.
    And also, I agree 100% that I love happy endings.
    Anything very scary, or gory, or hideous I just can't read.
    However, I have written a few western scenes that were gritty, but that didn't seem to bother me. Readers liked it, so....
    This is the main reason I'm such a huge fan of LaVyrle Spencer. Her books effused with emotion, and I could not stop reading.
    In "And then Came Heaven," the beginning scene just tears your heart out, and I have a vivid picture still of that.
    Thanks for taking time to visit--I always seem to agree with you.