Challenge Scenes

Mar 12, 2013 by

Challenge scenes are one of favorite ways to practice my writing. I take something that I want to improve on like description, dialogue, action etc. that’s my challenge; then I come up with a basic premise for the scene like Cinderella’s escapes from the ball, my fan characters sitting around celebrating their latest victory etc.; then I put the challenge and premise at the top-so I won’t forget or if I need to go back and look at it later-and start writing.

To write better challenge scenes focus on your goal more than it being canon; it doesn’t have to go in your story. If it fits your story, great! If you want it to fit, tweak it later; but that’s not your challenge right now.

Sounds rather simple I know, but I like to keep things simple (except for plot but that’s beside the point.) And you might be able to just sit down and start writing without calling it a challenge scene but I can’t. I tried to ‘just write’ and found myself staring at a blank computer screen for half an hour; I read articles saying to write 1000 words a day but found that impossible to do. I finally found out what my problem was; some people are better at doing things freestyle, while some are more goal oriented; both are perfectly fine because everyone’s different but I was reading articles that were more for the freestyle people. To get anything done I have to have a goal in mind, and a more specific one then how many words to write; and being challenged is what keeps me working so I came up with challenge scenes.

If having specific goals works better for you and you’re tired of being told to ‘write 5 minutes’ than they might work for you too.

Here’s an example of one of my challenge scenes, it’s not a work of art or anything, I know, but I think I did a fairly good job at succeeding the challenge.

Name: The Life of a Tumbleweed

Challenge: Description

I sway gently as the wind starts to blow, I can feel it not only on me, but blowing through me as well. Hot sand stirs up around me. Suddenly the wind picks up and I rock back and forth until it shakes me loose from my spot and I’m off; off flying across the desert with the wind and the sand.

I come up to a cactus and am glad when I sail past it, or else this adventure would have been very short.

I think of that word-adventure-and am instantly excited. Where could I end up? In a town? Will I roll past a shootout? Or a bank robbery? Or maybe I’ll roll past a building when it’s finished and be one of the first to see the town’s new church or schoolhouse. Or instead of a town I could tumble into a canyon and see those tall cliffs for myself. Or a plain and visit the grazing buffalo, maybe while I’m there I can see some Indians hunting.

As I dream all these things I hear a sound behind me, a coyote, as the sound gets louder I realize that the coyote’s chasing me. I panic, luckily the wind decides to help and picks up the pace; but so does the coyote. The wild dog inches closer and closer until he’s right behind me, then as fast as the animal showed up he brings his paw down on me.

The wind stops as I’m hit. I tumble through the sand a few feet and stop by a small rock.

The coyote pounces on me and smacks me a few times, but now that I’m not moving he quickly gets bored of me and stalks off.

The wind doesn’t pick up and I’m actually glad; I’d like to rest here in case that coyote’s still looking for a toy. So I’ll just stay here under the afternoon sky and continue dreaming of the adventures ahead of me. Until the wind comes back for me, then I’ll follow wherever she takes me.

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