I’ve been on vacation this week and while I haven’t gotten as much reading done as I would have liked, I have gotten a LOT done on my novella, Traption. I’ve spent this week going through each scene, one by one and asking myself the following questions:
- Does this scene have a goal?
What are the tangible goals of the characters? Inner goals? What’s the character’s motivation? Do I hint at the character’s motivation?
- Does this scene have a purpose?
Is the purpose to move the plot forward? Create foreshadow? Introduce characters or further reveal something new about an established character? Build suspense? These are just some purposes of a scene. I’m making sure each scene has a reason for being in the story.
- Does this scene have enough tension?
I’m trying to make sure the reader gains some apprehension as I slowly reveal information.
- Does this scene have enough conflict?
Are my characters getting along too nicely? How can I use subtext to suggest underlying conflicts? If it’s a fight scene or action scene, the conflict is pretty clear. I need to make sure my more low-key scenes have enough inner conflict or suggested psychological struggles.
- Do I have a variety of scene openings?
I’m checking to make sure I’m not overusing the same method to open a scene. I’m making sure not all my scenes open with dialogue or a setting description or inner monologue, but a variety of these.
- Have I incorporated as many of the five senses somewhere in the scene as I can?
It can make all the difference when I review a scene and find more ways to include smells, sounds and textures. Just adding a sentence here and there can make a scene more real to the reader.
- Have I made the setting clear for the reader at the beginning of the scene?
I’m surprised how many times I realize I need to anchor the reader into the scene by just a sentence or two of describing the setting. I am making sure each scene has an establishing shot as close to the beginning of the as possible.
- Has there been a shift of some kind in the scene?
A shift can take place in a variety of ways: the characters have a shift of emotion; a shift in setting; has a character’s goals change in some way? I’m ensuring each scene has some kind of change in it, at least one or two.
- Do I have a good mix of dialogue, action, inner monologue, description and exposition?
Most scenes require an assortment of fiction elements to keep the story going. I usually start with dialogue and action and layer in the rest.
- Have I kept track of who is in the scene and any objects in the scene?
When a scene has a group of characters, it’s easy to forget one of them is there. I’m finding ways to remind the reader of who all is there.
My goal is to go over my story a couple times and check for these things. If a scene is lacking in some area, it needs to be fixed. Once I’m satisfied that my story scene fulfills all the criteria listed above, then I plan to go over word choice, sentence structure and such. If I catch myself nit-picking a word here and there, I stop and focus on the scene as a whole. Word play comes later.
Here are other blog entries on scenes:
- Good Scene, Bad Scene
- Writing a Strong Scene
- How I Write My Scenes
- Checklist for Writing a Scene
- Making a Scene