An Opera, a Stiletto, and a Warning Cry

A 10-minute exercise about the elements of a scene

“Write a scene that includes these three elements.” One of the exercises we use in the Korongo Writing Workshops begins thus. The three elements could be anything. A frog, a muffin tin, and a mistake. A purple frog, a hot muffin tin, and a mistake that turns out well. Being specific helps. This is true in any art form.

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The day the exercise involved an opera, a stiletto, and the line “Darling, watch out!” we were working on scene structure.

A scene must have action (something happens), a setting (the place where it happens), someone or something to drive the action (otherwise nothing happens), and a time frame. Often there is dialogue. Sometimes the dialogue is internal (a conversation with oneself).

If you google “elements of a scene” you will discover other criteria. Conflict, for instance. Drama. An event that drives the plot forward. An event that brings the protagonist closer to (or farther from) his goal.

When I’m leading a workshop, I always do the exercises along with everybody else. It’s fun, it’s friendly, and I always learn stuff.

This was a timed exercise. I don’t remember how much time we spent on it—probably not much. Five minutes, tops? The point isn’t to write something brilliant but to play around with an idea. It’s messy. It supposed to be messy.

Go ahead, try it. Write a scene, in 5 to 10 minutes, that includes an opera, a stiletto, and the line, “Watch out, darling!”

PS I set my opera at the East Bethel Fish and Game Club. I’m not even sure that such a place exists. Well, East Bethel certainly does, but does it have a Fish and Game Club? Anybody?

Photo: Enrico Caruso (Creative Commons)


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