How To Make The Most Of Your Scenes

How To Make The Most Of Your Scenes


We love to make the most of scenes when we’re writing and in this post, we discuss how you can do it too.

Jeffrey Archer spends three years plotting. Stephen King says he doesn’t plot. John Grisham uses a master plot formula. Whichever way works for you, you still have to get from scene one to scene 60. The question is how? The easy answer is by writing. No sh*t, right? Is that all?

I have mentioned before that I like to plan, but I don’t do much more than an outline. In this post, Why Writers Should Always Make a Scene, I explained why I list my scenes and how I keep track. My first outline has around 20 scenes.

Sometimes I stare at the list all day and think I have exhausted all the avenues. I think this story is dead and I suck. I am convinced there is not one single scenario I can add, or worse, I start improvising 40 extra scenes because I have to and that becomes forced. When I start adding scenes simply to make up numbers I am going to write myself into trouble.

How To Make The Most Of Your Scenes

What can I do?

Once the tears have dried and the Xanax has kicked in, I’ll go back and think about what I want to do.

  1. First, I will confirm my story goal.
  2. Second, I check that every scene I already have has a goal. The scene goal should be either to move my protagonist closer or further from the story goal. The scenes that are forced will fall away.
  3. Third, I will have fewer scenes. Bad, right? Not really. Try this. I will make sure I am utilising my existing scenes. I have to make the most of them.

The Cell Phone Reaction

Let’s say my protagonist is having a lovely afternoon. She has just solved a difficult work problem. She left early to celebrate and is on her way home when her phone dies. The battery is flat.

Think of three reactions she could have:

  1. She can ignore it. Nothing is urgent. She is happy to have a tech-free afternoon. Who is desperate to get hold of her?
  2. She can stop and buy a charger for her car.
  3. She can stop at her best friend’s house for a chat and use her charger.

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  1. John

    Nice.

    I find scenes when I am in the story. I cannot be on the outside looking in. I cannot be the writer; I have to be the character. I have to feel the emotions, motivations, and reactions. I have to hope and hurt.

    One technique I use is prompt writing. I run a prompt writing group, and I often explore my characters with these off-the-cuff sidetracks. I may not get a scene, but I sometimes do. I at least learn more about my characters and stories.

    I also ask “what if?” and “why?” What if MC bought a goldfish? Why does MC want a goldfish? Insert your own verbs and objects. This works well with new locations. What motivates Bob to go to a library? Or, what is the most outlandish place Bob could go and why? 18year old Melissa walks into a male strip club. Why? Play. Feel the emotions.

    I do not like sticking to a strict scene-sequel format. It forces a strict structure on your story, makes it predictable in content and flow, in feel. I take my sequels and ask “what else might contribute to this dilemma? How can I raise the stakes? I often use 2, 3, maybe even 6 to 8 scenes, often smaller in length, to build to a more intense sequel. A small-hammering approach rather than a sledgehammer one.

    I also ask about character. Let’s say MC is physical, likes to fight. Is this clear? What else can I write to accentuate this characteristic? Bang*, a scene comes to mind.

    Lotsa options.

  2. Rajdweepkatiyar

    remarkable post amulgumated with understanding of grabbing the whole story or particular scene in logically interrelated way. It really really works for me. I am highly obliged to you. And hope in future. You would be guiding us in our endeavour to make wonderful accomplishment.

  3. Mia Botha

    Thanks for the comments. I appreciate it.

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