Tag Archives: Scene

Story structure sketch note

Story structure

Act 1:

  • Hook
  • Backstory
  • Trigger

Act 2:

  • Crisis
  • Struggle
  • Epiphany

Act 3:

  • Plan
  • Climax
  • Ending

Should be able to write at least 9 scenes with this in mind. Yay!


Scenes: 2 types, 7 tools

A little advice from Writing Fiction for Dummies.


Authors Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy categorize scenes into two types – proactive and reactive. Each scene has a recognizable beginning, middle, and end.


Beginning – define the “simple, objective, worthwhile, achievable, and difficult” goal.
Middle – conflict. Hit your POV character. When he tries to get up, hit him again.
End – setback. Make sure he’s down for the count.


Beginning – he reacts to a setback from previous scene.
Middle – Box your guy in. No easy outs.
End – he’s got to make a “simple, objective, worthwhile, achievable, and difficult” decision.

Writing-Fiction-For-Dummies-B002XGICAO-LVery helpful as a sort of checklist for analyzing, and in some cases rearranging, my scenes.

I can see how one scene type segues into the other, so even though the authors don’t really say, I’m guessing the idea is to go back and forth throughout the story. I might put “P” and “R” on my index cards and see if it pans out.

Note: not every scene is going to be knock-down-drag-out, but all of them should do their part to propel the story forward. Those middle bits have to be exciting enough to keep readers turning pages. (Chapter 14)


“Show, don’t tell.”

We’ve all been told, but have we been shown? Showing presents the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, feelings and thoughts of a character. Telling skips over all the sensory stuff and just gives the facts.

In order of importance, 5 tools to help you show:

      • ACTION
      • DIALOGUE

and 2 for when you need to tell:


That “in order of importance” bit bugs me. I’m pretty sure I tell too much, show too little. Anyhoo, there’s some good advice about how to get in and out of a flashback. Even better advice: don’t overuse the technique.

And these are smart tips for writing narrative summary:

  • BE INTERESTING. Not boring. Only surprising facts, critical info about your story world, and vivid imagery.
  • BE STRONG. Distinctive voice, entertaining delivery.
  • BE BRILLIANT.  (Chapter 10)

This post has probably been none of those four things. Brilliant.

A couple of six packs

Tonight is my weekly 3 hour binge writing session. Punk and the kids will be gone, the house will be quiet, the beer will flow like wine… and I don’t have a clue what to write.

Finally in Is Life Like This?, I am directed to organize 6 key scenes:

  • opening
  • first plot point
  • midpoint
  • second plot point
  • climax
  • finale

Yay, right? It’s almost like outlining!

Except I feel like a kid who’s been told “you can go outside and play,” only to discover I’m allergic to grass. I just got out of jail, but there’s no one to pick me up and drive me away. I finally finished my chores and can go to the ball, but by the time I get there it’s last call and Prince Charming is soused.

DrunkPrinceWhew, glad I got those horrible metaphors out of the way.

Dufresne’s next suggestion is to add texture to the 6 scenes (which I haven’t even chosen yet because I’m so stinking confused about what the heck this novel is even about anymore).

By “adding texture,” he means to look at each scene and ask 6 questions:

  • what is it doing? advancing plot, revealing character, expressing theme, establishing tone, amplifying earlier images?
  • what event is happening?
  • what is “the controlling emotion”?
  • how is it structured? (the scene itself, or how it fits into the overall structure? IDK)
  • add setting details
  • where’s the tension? heighten it.

Wish me luck.

Making the scene

Week 13: Picture This

I got busy, or lazy, and neglected to chronicle the lucky thirteenth week of the novel writing program (Is Life Like This?) on Monday. Then this crazy Micharctica weather. Our intrawebs connection is scared of thunderstorms. But today we’re back to snow, so it’s all good.

Right. I’ll just chisel away these frozen tears before I continue…

Ahem. Working on scene– specifically, the opening scene– took me to the halfway point. I’m halfway there. A semi-novelist!

NighthawksDufresne contrasts scene with summary, but then as his example he uses the first lines of Hemingway’s “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” Which opens with… summary.

Ha! Just goes to show ya, you can show and tell if you’re a boss like Hemingway.

Scenes… do at least two of the following: advance the plot, reveal character, and express theme. And maybe they also establish a particular tone or amplify earlier images.
–John Dufresne

Writing scenes is tricky business for this journalista. A scene shows particular, emotion driven, dynamic, dramatic actions as they happen, in a focused, intimate present-tense (at least in feel) manner. Unlike what I do. Reporting is summary. Grabbing the gist of what happened in the past and summing it up in a distant, static, explanatory fashion.

As it happened, this week I had deadlines with the newspaper, and happily I find the novel is beginning to inform my journalism. I actually sneaked some dialogue into an article! Set the scene, gave each character a unique voice, the whole nine yards.

Back to the novel itself, I wrote the scene I felt defined the start of the story. But the Cat got me reconsidering. This scene drops the reader right into the action– what Blake Snyder would call the catalyst, which he reckons ought to come only after the “before” situation of the main character has been set up.

So I’m open to the idea that my scene will end up ten pages in, after another scene sets up my reader to know and hopefully care about the protagonist. Dufresne says “each of these scenes is a microcosm of the whole novel.” The opener must mirror the novel as a whole, in its own little story arc complete with beginning, middle, end; character conflict; and change. So as I continue to plot, I’m auditioning each scene as a potential Page 1 opener.

Like a boss.