Purpose. 

Using the prompt provided, learn to create a character-based fictional scene, balancing narrative description, dialogue, and internalization and burying exposition so it does not intrude into story delivery.   You’ll keep the plot moving with conflict and action and integrate it with character development.

How to prepare.

1. To create the scene, you may need to learn details about something you may need to know more about: flying terrorism.  Some research may be needed as you work.

2. You need to determine the desires, motivations, strength and flaws of each of the characters.  (Pilot, copilot, flight attendant, suspicious passenger.)

3. As in all good fiction, you’ll need to immerse conflict among characters, with the environment, internal (should I or shouldn’t I, what will happen if I do?), and in the plot.   Learn to have conflict working on every level.  Example.  He tuned the radio to Poughkeepsie ground  control.  Flat.  Not useful.  To make it interesting (if it’s worth it for the story and  story?space is available).   The copilot reached up to lock the radio into 121.5 before he tried Poughkeepsie ground control.  His hand shook, he twisted the knob, which broke and fell off onto the floor.  They had to declare emergency, prepare ground control for the worst.  He twisted the knoblesss dial but fingers slipped with nervous sweat in the thin metal projection .  You’ll need to develop an always increasing sense of good judgment  This seems overwritten but will give an idea of how potential for conflict lies in every situation.   Look for conflict development in the tools available to a writer–dialogue, plot, characterization, narrative description, even direct exposition.

4. You’ll need to determine story purpose for this scene (as for every scene).  Does it advance plot, characterization, setting, theme and meaning?  A purpose will filter extraneous material not related to the story, an urge that plagues all amateur storytellers because it fills space and requires less thought.  For examples of purpose: In this scene I want o advance characterization of “X” by showing how his/her failure to learn regulations will threaten survival, or I want to deliver “Y”‘s attraction to Z.  [This is literary, character-based fiction, and the characters are driving the plot with their desires and motives (maybe the flight attendant’s love for the copilot interferes with the jealous pilot’s decisions for survival), not just reacting to the plot (look out for United 704, it’s coming toward us.”]

5. Finally, consider the best narration for the scene.  Who is telling the story?  Do you want it to be an unidentified narrator at a distance looking back, a narrator in scene, a narrator that enters single or multiple character(s) heads through specific points of view, or combinations of these.  If you chose 1st person, be sure you are fully aware of the limitations and strengths of 1st person POV so you don’t work against your purpose for the scene.

Essays you may find useful

Dialogue

Improving dialogue

Desire and Motivation

Conflict

Narration

Overuse of 1st person POV

And you can search specific topics in THE FICTION WELL  

What to do.

Write a scene no more than 1000 words using this scenario:

A commercial airline flight.  The female flight attendant notices a swarthy passenger in 28B making excessive frequent trips to the rear rest room, always carrying a black satchel and wearing heavily tinted glasses.  The terror alert is red.  She is suspicious.

She calls the pilot and copilot and with her hand cupped over the microphone, raises the alarm.

The pilot and the copilot begin to plan behind the locked door, keeping in touch with updates with the flight attendant.  But they do not get along well together, and under the threat emotions flare.

Rewrite and take it from there.  Confrontation.  Examine passenger and bathroom.  Alert passengers or not.   Prepare for early landing.  And so forth.   All the time revealing character and keeping the plot moving (this should be easy because the plot is already in motion). Set the scene but use no undisguised exposition.  [And write through your narrator.  Don’t become the narrator.  Authorial intrusion diminishes the potential of a well-imagined narrator and character(s), even in first person.)

Thanks for participating.

Submit your work below if you would like William H. Coles to provide free online comment. 


   Work submissions for Assignment 6: Create a character-based fictional scene

Elizabeth breathed deeply and cupped her hand over the microphone. “Captain, we have a suspicious passenger in seat 28B.” Sliding her finger down the passenger manifest, she added, “His name is Henry Bradey.”

“What do you mean, suspicious?” Howard asked.

She imagined a sneer on his face. She would have notified him earlier, as soon as Bradey’s first trip to the rest room, but she didn’t want to suffer his attitude. “He’s been to the rest room three times, and he takes a black satchel with him. He looks Arabic. I think Bradey must be a false name.”

“You’re profiling him because he looks foreign. TSA checks these things.”

“But the terror alert is red. I’m scared.”

“I’ll send Tim back.”

“We shouldn’t alarm the passenger. Who knows what he might do.”

“Well, you know Tim. He’s discreet.”

Tim, the first officer, was the least discreet person she knew, but at least he was reasonable. Howard, a smallish man, proper and trim, looked as if he were born in a uniform. Tim, at least six-two, ballooned out of his uniform as if it couldn’t contain him.

“Where is he?” Tim asked. They stood at the edge of first class. Elizabeth nodded her head, ever so slightly.

“He looks kind of crazed, but not all that Arabic, more like a drugged out has been rock star.” Tim said.

“He looks like an Arab to me. Don’t stare at him,” she whispered.

Tim nodded, “Keep us updated. I’ll tell Howard this guy could be for real.”

When Tim told Howard, Howard gave him a disgusted look and said, “Take the controls, I’ll call for an emergency landing. We’re only twenty minutes out of Pittsburgh.”

“Why don’t I go back there and clock the guy?”

“That’s against protocol.”

“Not if we are in imminent danger. If he has a bomb, he could trigger it at any time. I’ll take him by surprise. He won’t know what hit him.”

“It’s my call. I say we sit tight.”

“Son of a bitch, you’ll get us killed.” Tim loosened his tie, but took the controls.

Howard’s felt Tim’s eyes on him and he cursed himself for being unable to keep a steady hand as he took the radio. His voice wavered. He hated Tim for what he must think of him, but he managed to arrange the landing. “They’ll have a S.W.A.T. team and Hazmat there. We have to circle until they are ready.”

Tim wouldn’t look at him.

Howard contacted Elizabeth. “Anything happening back there?”

“He’s still in his seat, but he’s fidgeting like a nervous bird.”

“Don’t worry. We’re making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh. When we start the final descent, tell the passengers it’s a mechanical problem, but that there is no danger.”

“But won’t he guess we know about him and trigger the bomb?”

“It’s regulation.”

 

Henry Bradey wanted to pray, something he hadn’t done since he was a boy. He was surprised, but unafraid, that his moment of death was near. He never expected to get this far. At last, his fate was in his hands alone. He was in control. His device was small, but powerful, and ready. He’d checked it three times.

Once he’d calmed his soul and savored his accomplishment, he would set off the bomb.

 

Howard was nervous. He knew it would take time for ground control to get ready, but Tim had been circling for forty minutes and they hadn’t heard a word. “I’m going back to take a look,” he told his first officer. Tim glanced at him, but said nothing.

“Elizabeth, what’s he doing?” Howard whispered in her ear.

She nearly jumped out of her skin, not having heard him approach. “He’s settled down, but I don’t think he’s sleeping. He keeps a firm grasp on his bag.”

Howard looked at the suspect, just as Bradey opened his eyes. Howard quickly looked away, but Bradey’s eyes had the look of madness. Elizabeth was right, he thought; this man was dangerous.

“I’m going to the rear rest room to look around,” Howard said.

Howard sensed the suspect tighten the grip on the satchel as he passed. Howard willed himself not to look back.

Inside the rest room, he found nowhere to hide an explosive device. But then, he didn’t know much about these things. He should have let Tim subdue him. Now it may be too late.

 

It wasn’t prayer, but Bradey reached a trance-like state. When he opened his eyes, he saw the captain staring at him. It was no incidental glance. Bradey, though, was calm. He readied his trigger when the captain approached, but relaxed as he passed by him, back to the restroom.

Certain the prissy captain would not discover where he placed the bomb; Bradey decided to wait until the captain came forward in the cabin. Then he would call out, “Oh, captain,” as he passed. When their eyes locked, he would press the button and wait for the recognition of what he had done to appear on the captain’s face.

 

Tim couldn’t sit any longer. He took the plane to a safe height, and set it to auto-pilot. Then he hurried to the passenger cabin. Bursting through the first class curtain, and past Elizabeth, he saw Howard rushing Bradey. Bradey reached into his satchel just as the captain struck him from behind. Tim, there in a flash, tore at the man’s arm with determined force. Elizabeth dislodged the bag from his weakened grasp.

 

Later, after the tension had eased within them, the flight crew reunited on the ground. Howard, tidy as ever despite the struggle, said, “You were right, Tim.” I should have listened to you from the beginning.”

Elizabeth, flustered, looked at Howard in surprise. In all the time they worked together, she had never heard Howard admit a mistake.

Tim looked at Howard with mock disgust, “You just wanted the glory for yourself.”

Instructor Response

Comments

 

Elizabeth breathed deeply and cupped her hand over the microphone. “Captain, we have a suspicious passenger in seat 28B.” Sliding her finger down the passenger manifest, she added, “His name is Henry Bradey.”

“What do you mean, suspicious?” Howard asked.

She imagined a sneer on his face. She would have notified him earlier, as soon as Bradey’s first trip to the rest room, but she didn’t want to suffer his attitude. “He’s been to the rest room three times, and he takes a black satchel with him. He looks Arabic. I think Bradey must be a false name.”

“You’re profiling him because he looks foreign. TSA checks these things.”

But the terror alert is red. I’m scared.” I’d delete this because to include makes it sound like misplace or unnecessary exposition, and therefore ineffective dialogue.  “I’m scared.” is better standing alone here.

“I’ll send Tim back.”

We shouldn’t Don’t alarm the passenger. Who knows what he might do.”  This is a tense situation.  Keep dialogue tight, sparce.

Well, you know Tim. He’s discreet. Tim is descreet.”

Tim, the first officer, was the least discreet person she knew, but at least he was reasonable. Howard, a smallish man, proper and trim, looked as if he were born in a uniform. Tim, at least six-two, ballooned out of his uniform as if it couldn’t contain him.  Good.   

“Where is he?” Tim asked. They stood at the edge of first class. Elizabeth nodded her head, ever so slightly.

“He looks kind of crazed, but not all that Arabic, more like a drugged-out has-been rock star.” Tim said.

“He looks like an Arab to me. Don’t stare at him,” she whispered.

Tim nodded, “Keep us updated. I’ll tell Howard this guy could be for real.”

When Tim told Howard, Back in the cockpit, Howard gave Tim a disgusted look and said, “Take the controls, I’ll call for an emergency landing. We’re only twenty minutes out of Pittsburgh.”  “We’re twenty minutes out.  Take the controls.  I’ll call for direct access.  Emergency.”   I think this has more of a spoken feel to it.

Why don’t I Go back there and clock the guy!”

“Against protocol.”

Not if we are in imminent danger. If he has a bomb, He could trigger a bomb at any time. I’ll take him by surprise. He won’t know what hit him.  I could surprise him.”

“It’s my call. I say we Sit tight.”

“Son of a bitch, you’ll get us killed.” Tim loosened his tie, but took the controls.

 Howard’s hand shook felt Tim’s eyes on him and he cursed himself for being unable to keep a steady hand as he took the radio. and his voice wavered when he talked to the tower.  [Note here there were too many words and the balance of of rhythmic progression got out of whack.]  He hated Tim for what he must think of him, but he managed to arrange the landing. “They’ll have a S.W.A.T. team and Hazmat there. We’ll have to circle divert until S.W.A.T. and Hazmat are there.”  until they are ready.” [This is getting the dialogue as succinct as possible without loosing meaning and without using dialogue that sounds like exposition.]

Tim wouldn’t look at him. looked away.  [Avoid negative construction here. It stops momentum.]

Howard contacted called Elizabeth. “Anything happening back there?”

“He’s still in his seat, but he’s nervous.”  [The deleted metaphor was not exactly on target and the use of any metaphor in this dialogue in this place will be difficult to pull off for effectiveness.]

Don’t worry. We’re making an emergency landing in Pittsburgh. When we start the final descent, On final, tell the passengers it’s a mechanical problem. , but that there is No danger.”

But won’t he guess we know about him and He’ll trigger the bomb!”

“Just do it. It’s regulation.”

 

Henry Bradey wanted to pray, something he hadn’t done since he was a boy. He was surprised, but unafraid, that his moment of death was near. He never expected to get this far. At last, and his fate was in his hands alone. He was in control. His device was small, but powerful, and ready. His small powerful device was ready; he’d checked it three times.

Once he’d calmed his soul and savored his accomplishment, he would set off the bomb.

 

Howard was nervous. He knew it would take time for ground control to get ready, but Tim had been circling They’d circled for forty minutes and they hadn’t heard a word. “I’m going back to take a look,” he told his first officer. Tim who glanced at him  but said nothing.

Elizabeth, What’s he doing?” Howard whispered in her ear.

She nearly jumped out of her skin, not having heard him approach. “He’s settled down, but I don’t think he’s sleeping. He keeps a firm grasp on his bag.”

Howard looked at the suspect, just as Bradey opened his crazed eyes. Howard quickly looked away, but Bradey’s eyes had the look of madness. Elizabeth was right, he thought; this man was dangerous.

“I’m going to the rear ll check out the rest room to look around,” Howard said.

Howard sensed the suspect tightened his the grip on the satchel as he passed. Howard willed himself not to look back.

Inside the rest room, Howard found nowhere to hide a no explosive device. But then, he didn’t know much about these things. He should have let Tim subdue him. Now it may be too late.

 

It wasn’t prayer, but Bradey reached a trance-like state. When he opened his eyes, he saw the captain staring at him. It was no incidental glance.  Bradey, though, was calm. He readied his trigger when the captain approached, but relaxed as he passed by him, back to the restroom.

Certain the prissy captain would not discover where he placed the bomb; Bradey decided to wait until the captain came forward in the cabin. Then he would call out, “Oh, captain,” as he passed. When their eyes locked, he would press the button and wait for the recognition of what he had done to appear on the captain’s face.

 

Tim couldn’t sit wait any longer. He took the plane to a safe height, and set it to auto-pilot. Then he hurried to the passenger cabin. Bursting through the first class curtain, and past Elizabeth, he saw Howard rushing Bradey. Bradey reached into his satchel just as the captain struck him from behind. Tim, there in a flash, tore at the man’s arm with determined force. Elizabeth dislodged the bag from his weakened grasp.

 

Later, After the tension had eased within them, the flight crew reunited on the ground. Howard, tidy as ever despite the struggle, said, “You were right, Tim. I should have listened to you from the beginning.”

Elizabeth, flustered, looked at Howard in surprise. In all the time they worked together, she had never heard Howard admit a mistake.

Tim looked at Howard with mock disgust, “You just wanted the glory for yourself.”

 

Nicely done.  I’ve mainly worked on prose, dialogue in particular.  In this piece, often too many words are used that express thoughts that are not needed.  It’s about pacing, especially in a tense situation.  And learn to identify exposition in dialogue in your revision process.  Exposition in dialogue kills the effect of being in scene for the reader.  [You can get exposition in dialogue effectively at times, but it has to be skillful and not call attention to itself.]  Check essay, Dialogue.

Thanks for the submission!

WHC

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