Lesson 6: Scene Construction


Below this picture is the last two scenes in Chapter 1 of my novel: Gunny Mac Private Detective Trouble in Chinatown. I will explain to you what each scene represents and why.


My first Chapter was designed to do a few things.

  • Introduce Gunny Mac and Gunny Wojo
  • I needed to show the reader who Gunny Mac was and why he had to leave the Marine Corps after getting terribly wounded on Guadalcanal in 1942.
  • The audience now knows that Gunny Mac wins the Navy Cross and is an actual hero.

Scene 1

The scenes job.

  • To show Mac survives: because just before that most indications were he did not survive.
  • To show he didn’t feel he was a hero
  • To show somehow he was going to survive with the help of people

Col Edson walked the ridgeline after the fight that lasted all night.  Edson’s Ridge was littered with dead Japs, wounded, and dead Marines. Navy corpsmen were taking care of the wounded Marines, and litter bearers were removing the dead. The battalion surgeon was busy triaging the Marines not expected to live when he heard a calm voice behind him. “Where is he, Dr. Ryan,” asked Col Edison.

“I moved him over to the best spot I could find, Sir. He is the third litter on the right.”

Col. Edison walked over to the litter, and Dr. Ryan followed. The Colonel knelt next to the wounded Marine, his face contorted in pain. He looked down at the blood-encrusted Marine and placed his hand on him. Edson started to pray out loud, and Mac opened his eyes. The bullet wound through the side of his throat made him speak as if he was choking.” My boys stopped them, Sir, didn’t they!” Edson jerked his head up at the gasping sounds from Gunny Mac.

“No, you stopped them, Gunny, a fight that will go down for ages! Edson yelled to the surgeon. “Get this Marine to my tent now, and if he dies, I’ll hold you personally responsible. I want every possible help for him.”

Scene 2

The job of this last scene in the Chapter.

  • To show Mac made it to Hawaii and to a Naval hospital
  • To show how badly wounded he is
  • To show he is fighting for his life with the help of hospital staff
  • To introduce Lt. Van Deer who he falls in love with
  • To introduce the second love of his life Seadog.

Five days later, Lt. Van Deer sat in a briefing with the Head surgeon at the naval hospital in Oahu, Hawaii. She leaned forward, listening intently to her boss explain the injuries of their newest patient, who had been flown in directly from an aircraft carrier.

The surgeon put on his reading glasses and glanced through the patient’s medical records. “Gunnery Sergeant Mac sustained enormous injuries, and it is a miracle he is alive. All total, he received thirty-seven wounds. The doctor shook his head as he marveled at the list of wounds, shot in the side of his throat, two gunshot wounds to his arms and leg, deep bayonet wounds in the side and stomach, knife wounds, and slashes, the rest minor shrapnel wounds. Medically, it doesn’t look good…, but they say he was the reason they held onto Bloody Ridge. And we must hang onto him. He will need extra help, and I will ask for volunteers to work their shifts and stay with him through the night. He has given his all to us, and we must give our all to him. But don’t forget we have hundreds of wounded Marines who also need our love and support.”  Lt. Van Deer’s hand shot up immediately.  She shouted out, “I’ll care for him from midnight till my morning shift begins…someone can watch him from five to twelve.”  The surgeon smiled and told everyone to sign up for their extra shifts and called Lt. Van Deer over to him. ”I was hoping you would take the overnight shift and be with him. If anyone can help him, it will be you. Just remember there is an excellent chance he might die. I don’t want you heartbroken.” The surgeon started to walk away and turned around to Van Deer. “I get more amazed every day of my life by these Marines; there is no quit in them.

At midnight Lt. Van Deer walked over to Mac’s bedside, leaned over him, and wiped the sweat off his forehead. She sat in the chair by his bed, listening to the sounds around her. She heard his labored breathing caused by the drain tube in his neck. His face was calm and peaceful. He needed something to hang onto, and earlier that morning, she had an idea. She knew Mac could die in the next two weeks. She lifted the puppy from her shopping bag and placed him on the pillow next to Mac. His little pink tongue stretched out and licked Mac on the side of his face. As if the puppy understood he curled around the unwounded side of Mac’s neck and fell asleep. Lt. Van Deer watched the two sleeping, and tears filled her eyes. She prayed in silence for the Marine in the bed and waited for morning to come.