Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Candybar Scenes


I’ve only written two novels, so perhaps it’s a bit premature to talk about methodology when I’m still in the process of forming mine. Then again, talking about the process helps me figure it out. You can read as many articles and blogs as you want, but you’ve got to find what works for you. As Bruce Lee said about studying martial arts (paraphrased), “Take what is useful, discard what is not, make it wholly your own.”

For me, the key is candybar scenes. I heard about these first from my romance writer friends and have tracked them back to Holly Lisle. (Go ahead and follow the link for a great article on one method of writing a novel.)

A candybar scene is a scene you really want to write. You get giddy just thinking about it. It’s the sort of scene you love in movies or in other books, the one you go back and re-read again and again.

For Jade Tiger, my kung fu action adventure book, I had some very silly and fun things on the list, such as:

  • Shan and Ian, dressed up and flirting in a dangerous situation
  • Shan out of her element — at a fancy party or meeting Ian’s parents
  • Ian trying to protect Shan, even though they both know he can’t
  • A martial arts competition like Enter the Dragon
  • Shan realizing her mother was flawed

In a way, these were the reasons I was writing the book — they were the scenes that gave me joy, that kept me motivated. They were the scenes that showed why I loved my characters.

And, for me, the final climactic fight scene must always be a candybar scene. If it’s not, then I’ve done something terribly wrong.

Holly Lisle suggests spacing out about five or six candybar scenes throughout your novel. I found that writing a huge list of candybar items (frequently candybar “moments” and not full scenes) worked better. I worked them into fights, into dialogue, into every place I could manage. They made me giggle with delight. They made my hands fly across my keyboard. A scene without one of those moments was a scene I ended up cutting.

Passion is contagious. We all know that. This method just ensures that during the course of writing a book, I don’t lose track of the aspects of the characters and plot and setting that make me most passionate.

How about you? Do you use candybar scenes or something similar?

About the author

Jenn Reese


  • Great idea. I did have a couple of those for my novel, but not nearly enough, which is a good telling for why it didn't work. I am going to read that article and think about his some more.


  • What an interesting (and delicious-sounding) method. I think for me the candybar scenes are the ones that I already have a sense of before I write them. They're usually the ones that come sometime later in the story (but first I have to figure out what happens before). Now that I think about it, you're right that those are the scenes that keep me going. I tell myself that if I wade through the harder scenes, I'll get to the ones I already have a sense of and they'll be much easier to write.

    By the way, I love that you've written a kung fu adventure!

  • A similar idea from songwriting — Audrey calls them "cookies" when writing kids' songs — those little snippets that kids love to shout out whenever they come around. Some songs are entirely made of cookies — and she spaces these out across a set list.

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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