Category Archives: Fiction Writing in Particular

Don’t miss Joanna Penn’s inteview with best-selling author Zoe Sharp

Story-writers and novelists,

Check out this interview. It’s insightful and down-to-earth practical.

Fine it here: http://www.thecreativepenn.com…..zoe-sharp/

Best-selling Brittish mystery/thriller writer Zoe Sharp (the Charlie Fox series) started writing novels at age 15 but admits writing is still hard.

She confirmed for me that a good way of promoting your novel (perhaps the best way) is to self-publish an anthology of your short stories, especially if they involve the main character or characters of your novel(s) [what I wrote at the left includes a bit of my own interpretation, by the way].

She talks about traditional vs self-publishing, about writing a series, and about making the transition as a Brittish novelist to a US readership.

Lots of good info briefly stated-–in exchange for an investment of about 20 minutes of your time.

P.S. Let me know if you found it intriguing and/or helpful.

What is the toughest job the fiction writer has? Emotion.

Getting an emotion reaction from her readers.

A good story has several key elements–all of them are challenging:

  • Character. You need to create characters your reader will relate to and care about.
  • Plot. Your protagonist has to want or need something. And if you are good, you provide a steady diet of hurdles, surprises and interesting situations along the way.
  • Setting. The story must take place in a specific time and place, the more vivid and interesing the better.
  • And emotion.

MY focus here is on emotion.

How do you get your reader to feel your story, be emotionally affected by what’s happening on the page?

By showing how your character is feeling. How she reacts to what’s happening in the story.

If you are constructing your story well, you’ll have: a good plot–a goal for your character to achieve and conflict, things in the way of attaining that goal–and a character the reader can relate to and care about, in a setting that seems real to your reader. But for your story to be moving, your job is also to portray what your characters (major and minor) are feeling.

If you do that, your reader will sympathize and feel those emotions himself

Emotions move us. Readers want to experience emotion while reading. Make them feel, and they will love your story.

But portraying those emotions is not easy.

It’s way too tempting to take the easy, lazy route and just tell,  just name the emotion.  “He got really mad.” Instead of: “His face was a raging fire out of control, and he clenched his fists so fiercely his knuckles looked like they would break.”

One of the finest resources in print that you should have readily available is The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It is a well indexed listing of human emotions with  accompanying words and phrases to describe them. To me it’s indispensable. In the introduction, the authors describe the keys ways to portray emotion. Here is a brief summary:

1. Outward physical signs. You describe what  you would see in another person that would tell you what they are feeling. “Her face looked as if it has lost the last drop of blood.”

2.  Mental responses.  You describe what a character is thinking about what is going on.

3.  Mainly-internal Physical Sensations (Visceral responses). These are basically involuntary, raw and uncontrolled reponses–like: heavy breathing, a rapid hear rate, dizziness, and so on.

A balance is always advisable.

The authors also point out that you can err in two ways. Having too much emotion in a scene or having too little. And overusing visceral reponses can make your writing melodramatic.

I highly recommend this book. I have reviewed it here before, but my re-reading the intro today prompted me to share it again.

Another book.

…is The Definitive Book of Body Language  by Allan and Barbara Pease. This book is primarily aimed at business people or anyone who wants to learn to read other peoples’ body language more accurately. I wish the writers would have provided an index in the back of the book of all the types of messages that can be sent, which would have made it more useful. But the table of contents does arrange and categorize the content by means of the  different areas of the body that send the signals. 

So, to make this book useful to you, it’s a good idea to at least scan it to familiarize yourself as to what’s where.

Do you have any practical advice on portraying character emotion in words? If so, please share.

P.S. I want to mention once again K. M. Weiland’s excellent and helpful book , just published, Structuring Your Novel. It’s the clearest and most useful description of story structure I have found. You want a good plot/structure? This book can help a lot. And her section on scene structure and options is super-helpful too!

 

What 4 Activities can make you a Top-Notch Writer?

What are the essentials for your progress as a writer?

Briefly, they are: Writing, Reading, Studying, and Thinking.

Are you writing enough?

We all know writing helps us improve our writing skills. So this will be brief.

Write a lot, and not just in your chosen niche. Any writing helps move you in the direction of being as good as you want to be.

  • Keep a writing journal that records your insights and writing experiences and anything else you find meaningful.
  • Write an ad for your up-and-coming book.
  • Write recipies.
  • Write anything, including your chosen niche.
  • Using words, recalling the right words, better words, stuggling with syntax–it all moves you forward to some degree.

Are you reading enough?

In the evening, especially after a hard day at it, I like a good TV show. Currently it’s CSI:NY. I think well written dramas can add to our story-telling bag of tricks.

But I don’t want to indulge that too much. It’s like desert after a good nutritious meal. First the meal, then the reward.

There is that all important reading within your niche’s range. Study your competition, find out what’s being read, and how those author’s go about putting together their pieces. Beginnings. Endings. Style. Word-choice–all very important.

There’s reasearch you need to do.

Holly Lisle advises us to read everything. That’s the eclectic approach where you read whatever and add grist for your creative mill, grocery items for your pantry. Fuel for your subconscious mind’s engine.  Anyway, random is fun.

And you studying too?

A craftsman studies his trade, and artist his tools, and even plumbers need to learn skills and essential knowledge. All benefit from exposure to the work of accomplished practicioners. Are you not just reading fiction-writing how to books or copy-writing how-to courses, but studying, and doing the exercises–even if you have to make them up–that can accelerate your growth as a writer? Are you reading that short story or novel and getting caught up in it, and then forgetting to give it some close scrutiny to learn exactly how the author did it?

And finally, are you thinking though it all?

Nutrition involves eating, digesting, AND assimilating your food.

Until you have done all the above AND made it yours by discovering your own insights and confirmations of all the good points you have come across, until it flows out your fingers hitting the keyboard’s keys, until it’s so much a part of you that you find that writing knowledge and wisdom popping up in your finished pieces–is it really yours?

Which of these activities have you found most helpful to your growth as a writer?

My Scene Template–latest version

Do you struggle with getting your scenes right?

Scenes are the basic building blocks of any story or novel. Get them right, and your story and novel will not only very likely sell but  will probably also build you a following of dedicated readers.

Below is the Scene Template I put together and use for planning or revising my scenes.

SCENE TEMPLATE

SCENE QUESTIONS and SOME REMINDERS…

(Remember: Not as short as possible but as dramatic as possible—but no wasted words.)

Read your Focus Cards (brief outlines and notes for the scene)

  • Who is the main point of view character?
    • What does he/she want/need?
    • What stands in his/her way?
      • How do you reveal the obstacle(s)?
    • What is he/she feeling???
    • Where is he in his character arc?
  • What’s the conflict in the scene? Or conflicts? (Conflict is anything, not just arguments, etc., that keeps a character from getting what he wants/needs.)**
  • What is this scenes place in the story structure (within or at plot point or…)?
  • What type of scene is it—drama, sequel, action, beginning, ending…?
  • What is the day, time, place, season, situation?
  • What setting elements/descriptions need to be included?
  • What is the key piece of info scene provides for the reader?
  • What are the stakes?
    • How will you make them clear?
    • Who and/or what will the reader root for?
  • What is the mission/purpose/scene question?  That is, how does this scene further the story?
  • Besides the main character (POV), who are the other characters in the scene? Why does he/she need to be in the scene?
    • What does each want?
    • What stands in the way?
    • Where is each, as applicable, in his character arc?
    • What are your “show not tell” and body language ideas?
  • Are there any plants/foreshadowing? If so, what are they (note any follow-ups ideas to these to do later).
  • Any surprises/twists?
  • Where is the point of maximum INTENSITY in the scene? The scenes “fulcrum,” the critical action and information-revealed?**
  • What are the Suspense element(s)?
  • What theme(s) does this scene express?
  • What is the level of anticipation during the scene, as paid off by the moment when the morsel of story exposition is exposed?
  • Or, if it’s a deliberate surprise, how have you tricked or set up the reader to make that moment as jarring as possible?

REMINDERS:

  • Remember: stimulus and response!
  • 95% or more => WRITE IT MOMENT BY MOMENT—DON’T SUMMARIZE.
  • Avoid redundancy or unnecessary descriptions of setting, place, character appearance, or other issues of ambiance?
  • At each key point, WHY SHOULD THE READER CARE???**
  • Have you left in boring parts? (Delete them!)**

Create a SCENE OUTLINE

WHAT CHANGES WITH THIS SCENE???

BEGINNING (at the latest moment, w/o skipping key info or dramatic potential):

  • Beginning attention grabber?
  • Does your scene open with something clever, poignant, surprising, or intrinsically interesting?

MIDDLE (What gets worse?):

END

  • What is the outcome—win, lose or draw?**
  • Logical twist or Disaster or Cliff-hanger at the end?
  • What gets resolved?
  • What doesn’t get resolved?
  • And what is the transition to next scene?

[NOTE: Wherever two asterisks ** occur above, they indicate ideas added from Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course, which I highly recommend. Check out her stuff here: http://hollylisle.com/. ]

 

 

Do You Think Things Through?

Do you ever in your haste to get things done, give in to a bit of mental laziness and not think things through enough? Or do you make a mental note to fix something and then later forget to do it?

Don’t be hasty.

We all want our writing and our stories to be good, the best we can make them. Powerful writing gets noticed even in a flooded marketplace. But I think, too, we can be tempted–or even succumb to the temptation at times–to conclude that what we have written is good enough and to ignore that quiet, nagging voice that says, “you need to check that” or “that’s not quite right” or “is my writing dull here?”

This is important for all writing.

I’m going to use examples below from fiction writing, but of course the need for careful thought applies to nonfiction writing too.

What about first drafts?

Now just in case you want to say to me at this point: “Yeah, but I like to write by my intuition, my heart, and make it up as I go.”  If you do want to say that, let me add, “I’m with you. When you’re writing that first draft or plowing through your word-count for the Nano contest, go for it. Burn through it. Absolutely. But, as we’ve all heard, good writing is re-written. So I absolutely also recommend careful and thorough thinking-through after that hot piece of writing has cooled down. Even invite your critical left-brain to go for it big-time.”

So what are my points on thinking things through?

1. Thinking-through is vital for depth in writing.

Careful thought can uncover meaning in your story you didn’t see before, themes, symbols, clever twists. Depth can add value and enjoyment for your reader. You might just come up with insights that take your work from good to great.

2.  Thinking-through is vital for plausibility.

Would your character really do that?

Yesterday, I was stuck. I realized that in a key chapter in my novel, I had my protagonist too easily let his 12-year-old daughter, his one and only remaining loved one, go on an obviously dangerous outing. Something no caring parent would do. Yet what happens on that outing is essential to my plot, so I was pushing my luck. I needed to get her on that outing. Then I thought it through and came up with a solution: miscommunication.

Plausibility is super-important whether you’re writing a realistic this-world story or a fantasy with a setting in a strange and alien world. Things still have to make sense to your reader.

3. Does it work all the way through?

Thinking things through is vital to assure that your story or copy works all the way through. Without that careful thought, it’s oh so easy to miss the need for a transition, the need for a brief explanation, or the realization that you have your character acting decidedly out of character–and many other possible problems you need to fix.

And the best thinking-through includes asking the question: how will my reader react to what I have written?

4.  Thinking things through also can open you up to the possibilities.

How about those lovely surprises that tie things together at the end? Surprises that readers love, that make your reader say, for example, “Oh, yeah, now I know why he didn’t propose!” Also, taking the time re-read your chapters and do some hard thinking can remind you to follow-up on those hints (plants) you crafted early-on and forgot about after several thousand more words.

Todd Henry in his excellent book The Accidental Creative writes: “Assumptions can be disastrous to our creative process because they limit how we look at problems” (page 72). We can, if we are not careful, let assumptions artificially limit our options (Page 75).. Don’t assume it all works until you have checked it and you’re sure.

Don’t miss choice opportunities that can make your work move vivid, more alive. Or as Jerry Cleaver wrote in his book Immediate Fiction, while emphasizing the need for constant conflict and suspense, “Can you make it worse?”

Dare I add…

Careful thought for important life-decisions can be a good idea too? Most of our decisions offer more than one option, and decisions can be powerful.

Back to writing.

My experience with getting seriously stuck made me realize that I need to go back and think through my novel–at least at every major point in the plot–and not just when I get stuck.

How about you?

Do you ask yourself hard and uncomfortable questions about your story or your copy? What do you do when you get stuck?

 

I have to Confess: I like Reading Nancy Drew

I’m a mature–well, at least older–male who reads Nancy Drew. The original series of 64, that is.
 
Why on earth would I do that? Well, I started reading them to check them out to see if they would be appropriate for my granddaughter to read. They are. But surprise! I found I like them. Why so? They’re good, that’s why. None of them will ever vie for Great-American-Novel status. But the stories are solid, as well as good examples of sound story structure.
 
Granted they’re dated. They’re straight like a boy scout convention (or should I say “girl scout convention”?), kosher and proper in every way–no sex or violence or even occasional profanity. Darn! They’re filled with frequent and sometimes funny coincidences and some improbabilities here and there. They have wonderful. honey-coated endings that at times rival a Disney feature presentation. And Nancy Drew herself, in addition to being pretty and brave and smart, consistently comes across as a saint with strawberry-blond hair.
 
But, these novels, incidentally, have sold zillions of copies. And starting in 1930, they have been translated from English into as many as 25 additional languages and published in an impressive number of European, Scandinavian, Latin American, and Asian countries–and most recently in Estonia. Not too shabby.
 
Want to learn mystery writing? Read Nancy Drew. Now why would I say that to you my savvy readers? Rather cheeky, right? Empty boast? I don’t think so, based upon thoughtful and commendable consideration. But Why? Because their mystery-writing bones are nearly naked for all to see, laid bare certainly to the critical eyes of students of the craft–those of us who know some of the tricks well enough to spot them easily where and when they occur. The books are chuck full of classic mystery and thriller/suspense techniques, twists and surprises.  And come complete with simple, straight-forward examples of those techniques right there on the page to learn from. At least if you’re relatively new to the genre. And for you veterans, some reminders couldn’t hurt.
 
I am often pleasantly amazed at how when reading these stories, I keep getting worried when Nancy or also George and Bess get themselves into dargerous situations. And I keep getting mad when those diabolical bad guys and gals–some of which are downright nasty–devise and pull off such shameful trickery against such a likeable heroine (old fashioned word, I know). And I must also confess that my heart is often warmed by the nifty, all-loose-ends-neatly-tied-up endings, each like a cleverly wrapped Christmas package.
 
Hey, they’re a quick read, and I don’t lose any sleep when I make them my night cap, which lately has been embarrassingly often. 
 
Well, having gotten that off my chest, I’m off to start chapter 1 of The Ghost of Blackwood Hall, #25 in case you’re wondering. That’ll be my reward for some exhausting editing work done earlier today.
 
Stay tuned!
 
P.S. I do read other novels too.
 
P. S. S. Your turn. Be honest now. Have your read Nancy Drew?

Building a Novel Demands Organization

If you’re at work on a novel or have worked at writing one, you have probably realized it can be an organizational nightmare.

Once you come up with a good idea for a novel that you think will work as a plot, organization enters the picture. Or at least it should.

Once you have developed your fiction-writing skills, preparing to write a  novel can be, roughly say, 50% invention, and 50% organization of what you come up with.

There’s always a lot to keep track of.  After all you’re building a whole world, even if you draw heavily from the world you know and do not invent an entirely new one on a different planet. And it’s a lot of work.

It’s sort of like writing a doctoral thesis, mountains of research you need to fit into just the right places–only worse. You need specialized writing craft for fiction.

But since it is a lot of work, I like to keep that work to a minimum.  I don’t skimp on editing and rewrites, but I like to cut down on work I make for myself.   Like being able to find ideas and pieces of research, bits of dialogue or character details when I need them. Like not forgetting to include plants and to followup with those plants later on.

4 Basic Strategies

So I work at 4 basic strategies: (1) a cross-referenced filing system; (2) a beat sheet; (3) a timeline; and (4) character work sheets.

1.  A filing system for filing and locating all that information.

It’s very frustrating to me when I’m in the zone, and the writing is going well,  to have to stop to find a piece of information or a note on setting, for example, when I need it. Especially when it takes a half hour or hour to find it, if I find it at all.

So when I get the initial idea for a story, I create a file folder in my word-processor and start indexing it right away.  Each new idea gets a number and a category.  Is it a bit of dialogue that occurred to me? A detail on the setting? A plot twist or surprise?  Each gets a label, a key word, which I use over and over again so that I can collect similar items when I want to.

And I cross-reference every idea I can, using the helpful functions of my word processor to the limits of my skills.

Of course this is a good way to go about writing anything, except perhaps for really short pieces. Such efforts can also help with putting together short stories,  magazine articles, blog posts.

I find, too, that recording and filing my notes often helps me generate new ideas.

2.  I start to build a “Beat Sheet” as early as I can.

A beat sheet, for any of you that may be unfamiliar with the term, is a chronological list of the scenes in the story (it can be a list of chapters, but most fiction writers find the scene the best segment to list).

This list is handy for linking your notes to.  It is also helpful when you need to have a quick look at what is happening at each point in your story.  Hence novelists often keep the description of the scene brief, like a sentence or two to describe each.

And of course, such a list of scenes can be an essential help in developing that all important structure of your story.

3.  Avoid embarrassing mistakes with a timeline.

Even when you have one basic plot line and events unfold in a neat, chronological series, you can easily make mistakes about what happens when.

With subplots, and most novels have a least one, probably more. those story lines  will connect up with the action of the main plot line.  It gets more complicated to keep the timing straight.

To do this, you can create a timeline.  Either an independent file, say in a spreadsheet or your word processors, or just include it via small notes in your beat sheet.

4.  Keep your characters straight with character sheets.

If you have a sizable number of characters in your novel, it can be challenging to keep their traits and aspects straight.  This can be particularly true with minor characters, often much less developed and less in the spotlight than your major story-people.

I keep two lists.  One contains brief notes on each character–eye color, hair color, basic physical descriptions, major/minor traits.  These serve as reminders when needed.

I have additional sheets for each important character that go into more detail, for example backstory, weaknesses and strengths, and the all important character arcs for each–the range of growth seen in the character throughout the story.

Coordination is Key.

Done well, these organizational efforts make for productive writing. You have the information you need handy as you write because  you have put in the effort to coordinate it all. It  can also help you avoid some major re-write tasks.

You can keep track to what you need to remember at each stage, or scene, you are writing.  What was it about the setting, that detail, that can contribute to the mood of the story at this p0int?  What was the color of the minor characters eyes?  It’s the halfway point in the novel, so where is my protagonist in her character arc now?  Do I need to foreshadow the major crisis here?

 There’s more  you can do.

Like planning each scene like you would a short story.  On that, see my previous posts–this one: http://keystowriting.com/how-to-get-your-scenes-going-right-from-the-start/ and this one: http://keystowriting.com/are-you-asking-enough-questions-about-your-scenes/.

Try these strategies and draw from them to add to your own system for compiling, recorfding all your ideas and research and keeping it findable. It can make that long road to a publishable novel a shorter one.

Additional resources:

 First Draft in 30 Days by Karen Wiesner

Character & Viewpoint, The Elements of Fiction Writing, by Orson Scott Card

How to Write a Damn Good Mystery by James N. Frey (Chapter 9)

http://storyfix.com/storytelling-to-the-beat-of-a-different-drummer

https://www.google.com/search?q=novel+timeline+template&hl=en&sa=X&prmd=imvns&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=OLZ4T9iRHcXliALFtMynDg&ved=0CHgQsAQ&biw=640&bih=469

 

 

 

 

How to get your Scenes Going Right–from the Start

Photo courtesy of boboroshi @Flickr.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you find it hard to remember everything you want to include in a scene?  

I do. That’s why I put together my own template that I can refer to when writing.

Last January, I posted 33 key questions to ask about your scenes. Here’s the link:  http://keystowriting.com/are-you-asking-enough-questions-about-your-scenes/

Here is a supplement to that post.  It’s a worksheet you can fill out to make your scenes dynamic and exciting…

THE SCENE TEMPLATE

SCENE Notes (things you want to be sure to remember while writing)

SCENE BLANKS TO FILL IN…

(Remember: Not as short as possible but as dramatic as possible—but no wasted words.)

POINT OF VIEW character:

PLACE IN STORY STRUCTURE (within or at plot point):

TYPE OF SCENE: Drama and Reaction/­Brief Sequel, Action, Beginning, Ending

Indicate time, place and situation for the reader:

Key piece of info this scene provides for the reader:

What are the stakes?

How will you make them clear?

Who and What will the reader root for?

MISSION of this scene/its purpose/the scene question—How does this scene further the story?

CHARACTERS IN THE SCENE AND WHERE THEY ARE AT IN EACH (Main character’s) Arc…

 Main character:

ARC:

What does this character want?

What are the obstacles:

How is each revealed?

What is each feeling? Emotion?

Key “show” expressions, body language, dialogue?

OTHER CHARACTERS inthe  scene:

PLANTS:

Any SURPRISES/TWISTS?

Where is the point of maximum INTENSITY in the scene?

SUSPENSE ELEMENTS:

THEME(S) this scene expresses:

Add any LAST MINUTE REMINDERS:

 AND REMEMBER:

Stimulus and response! (Show, specify or strongly imply what causes each character’s important reactions.)

 WRITE IT MOMENT BY MOMENT—DON’T SUMMARIZE.

Avoid redundancy or unnecessary descriptions of setting, place, character appearance, or other issues of ambiance?

 Remember: A scene is like a short-story, so outline it…

SCENE OUTLINE

BEGINNING (at latest moment, w/o skipping key info or dramatic potential):

Beginning attention grabber?

Does your scene open with something clever, poignant, surprising, or intrinsically interesting?):

 MIDDLE (What gets worse?):

END:

Logical twist or Disaster at the end?

What gets resolved?

What doesn’t get resolved?

And what is the hook and the transition to next scene?).

What is the level of anticipation during the scene, as paid off by the moment when the morsel of key story info is revealed?

Or, if it’s a deliberate surprise, how have you set up the reader to make that moment as jarring as possible?

Ever get tired of “she said…he said” when writing dialogue?

Photo courtesy of "Clairity" @ Flickr.com

Action tags are a way around repetitive and boring “saids.”

I heard it said a number of times that the word “said” is nearly invisible in our writing.  Readers notice it barely and quickly pass over it once they know w ho’s doing the talking. And that is true.

For sure, it’s important when writing dialogue to give enough signals on the page so that the reader knows who spoke which lines of dialogue.  I have found myself confused at times, when an author has provided too few clues.  On those occasions I have to backtrack in my reading to figure out who the speaker is.  And, yes, that’s annoying.

But on the other hand, can “he said…she said,”  if used too much, get annoying.  Yes, they can.

And here’s a piece of insider information.  I have it from a good source, that a good number of editors who judge submitted short stories and novels, consider a too frequent use of those “saids” as an indication of amateur writing.  Not a conclusion you want an editor to come to when considering whether to publish your story or not.

A better way
So what’s the solution? Action tags.  Action tags are descriptions of the speaker, her action or facial expression or body language. Action tags are an efficient way of writing dialogue because they not only indicate who it is who’s speak but they also paint a more vivid picture of the speaker.

Here are a few examples:

Instead of: “Why did you say that?” Jack asked.

This:  Jack frowned at me. “Why did you say that?”

Or,

Instead of: “Surely that can’t be true,” she said.

This:  She blinked several times and bit her lower lip.  “Surely that can’t be true.”

And,

You can change this: “Now that’s something I find really interesting,” Hal said.

To this: Hal shifted his weight from foot to foot in a little dance.  “Now that’s something I find really interesting/”

This does not mean that the word “said” is taboo, never to be written in your stories, of course.  That’s too rigid.  But it is wise to keep their number down to as few as feasible.

The word “said” is a weak one.  And by using action tags your dialogue writing can have the added advantage of providing more vivid descriptions of your characters in the scene. Such descriptions can help you writing come to life.

By the way, psychologist Margie Lawson has developed courses you can download for a modest fee and that he students and professional writers rave about.  Her first set of lessons is titled “Empowering Characters’ Emotions.I have studied this course and a second one of hers and highly recommend her materials.  You can find her here: http://www.margielawson.com/

 

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

http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/art/scene.php  “Writing the Perfect Scene” –a free download by Randy Ingermanson.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scene_(drama)

http://www.writingforward.com/news-announcements/guest-posts/how-to-create-effective-scenes-and-chapters-in-your-novel