Are you Asking Enough Questions about your Scenes?

 33 Key Questions to ask yourself When planning or writing Scenes that Work

Here is a checklist I put together for pre-planning and for double-checking my scenes to make them as effective as I can…

  1.  Have you made it as dramatic as possible, with no wasted words?
  2.  What type of scene is it?  Drama, Action, a beginning or ending scene?
  3.  When and where does it happen?
  4.  Point of View character: Whose eyes are we looking through?
  5.  What key piece of info does this scene provide for the reader?
  6.  What are the stakes?
  7.  How do you make them clear?
  8.  What will the reader root for?
  9.  What is your mission for this scene, its purpose, the scene question to be answered?
  10.  Which characters appear in the scene, and where is each at in his/her character arc?
  11.  Who’s the scene’s main charater?
  12.  Who are the minor/secondary characters in it?
  13.  How is character revealed—for each character that appears?
  14.  What does each character want?
  15.  What are the obstacles for each getting what she wants?
  16.  What is each feeling? The emotion?
  17.  What are the key expressions that show rather than tell–including body language, dialogue?
  18.  What plants should be included?  Hints at things to be further developed later on.
  19.  Are there any surprises, twists?
  20.  Where is the intensity in the scene?
  21.  Have you included suspense elements, tension, conflict?
  22. What themes are dramatized by this scene.
  23. Have you made all responses by the characters–each the result of an obvious stimulus?
  24. Have your written it moment by moment?  Don’t summarize!
  25. Have you avoided unnecessary descriptions of setting, place, character appearance, or other things? But included essential ones?
  26.  Is it outlined as well as a short story? With…
  27. A beginning at latest moment?  Without  skipping key info or dramatic potential?
  28.  An attention-grabber at the beginning?  Does your scene open with something clever, poignant, surprising, or intrinsically interesting?
  29.  Sometime that gets worse in the middle?
  30.  Built in anticipation for the reader. And when is that anticipation satisfied, at least partially.  What gets resolved?
  31.  A deliberate surprise?  If so, how have you set up the reader to make that moment as jarring as possible?
  32.  Is the scene’s end logical and does it include a disaster?  Or at least a twist or hook to keep your reader eager to rush to the next scene.
  33.  Have you read significant portions out loud?

Readers: Do you have any key scene questions to add?  Do you have questions? Post them here.

Further Reading:

Story Engineering, Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks

 Outlining your Novel, Map your Way to Success by K. M. Weiland

Make a Scene, Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time by Jordan E. Rosenfeld  “Writing the Perfect Scene” –a free download by Randy Ingermanson.


6 thoughts on “Are you Asking Enough Questions about your Scenes?

  1. Amy Deardon

    Hi Bill, these are great tips! I especially agree with the one about reading your work aloud — I’ve started doing this, and it really makes a difference. What are you writing now? Amy

    1. admin Post author

      Hi Amy, Thanks for stopping by.

      Glad to hear you like the post.

      I’m writing two ebooks on writing. The first “The Keys to Writing Workbook” is an expansion on some of the posts I’ve written here, but with new material and more examples and exercises. I intend this one for a freebie to encourage visitors to subscribe.

      The second will be a more elaborate exploration of good writing principles, more syntax and rhetoric than basic grammar, effective sentences, word choices, things like that.

      And, oh yes, a novel, in its 4th rewrite now–I’m following Larry Brooks (Story Engineering) structure guidelines to shape it up.


  2. admin Post author

    Hi Amy, I’m enjoying this attention!

    The novel occurs in the somewhat near future. 2034 (or maybe a bit later). Global warming is in full swing. Technology is still progressing, but economies in the US and worldwide are struggling. The protagonist is John Anderson, an international internet evangelist/preacher that is told by his doctor he is HIV positive (not his fault) and what happens to him when he goes looking for healing and finds an underground church-type organization in California (which has international divisions). Another key character is Sammie, his 12 year old computer-brilliant and beautiful blond daughter who was put in a wheelchair permanently after an accident.

    P.S. I took a peak at your book The Story Template at Amazon. Looks very interesting. There’s so much to this novel-writing preoccuption. Learning seems endless. But I love learning.

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