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 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?
- 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?):
- 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/. ]