Tag Archives: fiction-writing

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…


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


(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?


 Main character:


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:



Where is the point of maximum INTENSITY in the scene?


THEME(S) this scene expresses:



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


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…


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?):


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?

Fiction Writers: Check out this not-to-be-missed Blog

Fiction Writing is a vast realm.  I’ve likened it to a PhD or two, maybe three.  I find, in fact, that I need to review several knowledge/skill areas frequently as I’m planning or writing a story or novel–just so that I don’t forget some aspect I need to include in  my work.

K. M. Weiland’s Wordplay blog should be read by all fiction writers. Truly, a not to be missed blog.

Ms. Weiland helps me stay fresh and sharp with my fiction writing skills.  Her posts are brief and meaty and quite often consist of a video clip accompanied by a transcript.  So if you prefer to read, you can read. If you prefer to watch the video, you can do that.  I like to do both–helps me remember her points better.

For signing up to follow her blog, you can download an excellent and free book that summarizes key characterization know-how.  I have the link to it on my desktop so that I can open it and refer to it quickly when I sense the need.

The author has published novels and short-stories to her credit. If you’d like to check out her work, she has a page at Amazon.com.  My favorites are her novel Behold the Dawn and her short-story “The Memory Lights.”  Powerful stories. Downloadable to Kindle. Her novels are also available in paperback.

I also keep handy her book Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, which covers the range of fiction technique well from an outlining standpoint.

For two years in a row, her blog has been among the top ten blogs for writers at Write to Done.

Weiland’s knowledge of fiction-writing art, skills and techniques is thorough and well-worth reading. I save every one of her posts to my hard-drive.

Highly recommended.

The Best Book on Revising Fiction-Period

Courtesy Cohdra @morguefile.com

Best-selling author James Scott Bell has written a gem of a book with his Write Great Fiction: Revision & Self-Editing, Techniques for transforming your first draft into a finished novel. In fact, it’s like a one-volume manual for fiction writing.

A Comprehensive Overview with a lot of Details
From the introduction: “Beginning writers will therefore find this an essential overview of the craft of novel-length fiction.” But Bell is also careful to admit that entire books have been written on the subjects he covered. So this is not an exhaustive treatment of the know-how necessary to write a competent novel. You should read other books too. Nevertheless, Bell does an admirable job of packing this book with key advice, over and over again.

Some books meander all over the grid before getting specific about what to look at, what to do, and how to do it. So what’s good about this book? In a word, everything! It’s readable and quickly zeros-in on the many targeted techniques. And its instruction is well-organized, systematic, and easy to follow. In fact, it’s like a training manual for novelists.

Still impressed
I’m re-reading it. When I first read it a year and a half ago, I was impressed with its rich content and sound advice.

Good value for your money, and then some…
The introduction “On Becoming a Writer” and the “The Ultimate Revision checklist” near the end of the book are easily worth the price of the book alone. But there is a wealth of information on the pages between–detailed by a writer who has been in the trenches, fighting hard for years to win the wisdom he shares.

It’s divided into two main parts.
Part One: Self- Editing goes over the major aspects of fiction writing, like characters, plot & structure, point of view, scenes, dialogue, show vs. tell, and so on. Each chapter is a jewel that covers key techniques for the novelist and all or certainly nearly all the essential need-to-know points. Most chapters have helpful exercises at the end, and some have more than one exercise.

Part Two: Revision prepares you the reader for tackling serious revision after that first draft has cooled off sufficiently. Topics include: “A Philosophy of Revision,” “Before Your Revise” and “The First Read-through.” Then comes one of the most useful sections of this book…

“The Ultimate Revision Checklist”
This brilliant 38-page  section is really, to me, the heart of the book. It contains spot-on and penetrating questions the novelist can profitably ask herself as she prepares for and goes about re-writing. These questions are grouped, each in its own section with titles like Character, Plot, The Opening, Middles, Endings, Voice, Style & Point of View, Setting, Dialogue Theme, The Polish.

A Few of the extras…
Throughout there are pithy quotes from well-known, successful, published authors that underscore the many points. Bell even included answers to the exercise at the end of several of the chapters.

It’s a Tough Job but…
Revising the first, or second, or third draft can be tough. The key is to identify those things that need fixing, ways to make your novel better. Bell provides not only a workable plan but also the tools to do just that.

From page 215: “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.”  –Robert Cormier.

Highly recommended.

Other helpful books on revising fiction:
1. Immediate Fiction, A Complete Writing Course by Jerry Cleaver.
2. The Elements of Fiction Writing: Revision, How to find and fix what isn’t working in your story and strengthen what is to build compelling, successful fiction by Kit Reed (available used).
3. The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) by Jack M. Bickham
4. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, How to edit yourself into print by Renni Browne and Dave King.