As I start my next manuscript, I’ve been toying with different ways to plan scenes.
Quick aside — go read Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I’ll try to post soon about why it’s so good. She has a lot of smart stuff to say about common writing myths and getting story right.
Anyway, back to scenes. I’ve done a lot of groundwork for imagining my world and characters, and I know my novel’s trajectory. But I’m an underwriter, which means I struggle with word count. I need ways to keep myself on course and incorporate that world-building little by little into the actual writing.
So I ask myself these questions to prepare for writing a scene, and so far I’ve found they work like magic:
- What is the purpose of this chapter?
- Whose POV will this be and why? What’s their emotional state going in?
- What is the goal, conflict, and disaster?
- What is the reaction, dilemma, and decision (emotional reflection)?
- What is the twist that will keep people reading, or how does the problem get bigger?
- How do things go wrong for the protagonist?
- What choices does the character make here?
And then, once I’ve answered those:
- What is the setting, and how can I set the scene as I begin?
- What description the five senses will help me set this scene?
- How can I anchor the characters’ behaviors to their past in this scene?
- How can I deepen the characters’ misbelief (flawed worldview) in this chapter?
By this point, I’ve usually come up with a lot of ideas and gone way deeper into my brainstorming than I anticipated, so I’m ready to begin. But just in case, I sometimes also answer these last two questions:
- What about my world can I reveal, or dig deeper into? What can I sprinkle in?
- How else can I ask “why” to make the story richer and motivations more believable?
Since I use Scrivener, anytime as I’m writing that I hit on something I need to research more (including terms or general world choice), I leave myself a note on the side and keep typing.
Your turn. How do you prepare to write a new scene?