How To Plot A Perfect Scene In 10 Minutes

How To Plot A Perfect Scene In 10 Minutes

In this post, you will learn how to plot a scene in 10 minutes.

Breaking up your scene into bite-size units will make your plotting and writing easier. It will also save you time because you won’t have frustrating rewrites.

Plotting is really a ‘to-do list’ for you as a writer – you need to know what will drive the story forward, what settings you will throw into the mix, what conflict your characters will face, and where the scene will end.

How To Plot A Perfect Scene In 10 Minutes

Block out the scene

Say you’re going to write a scene of about 1,000-1,500 words, you’ll probably need 10 plot points to keep you on track. Grab an A4 piece of lined paper. At the top of the page, put your scene summary in a block. For example: Nik, the rock star that VIP bodyguard Jade is protecting, picks up a model at the hotel bar. Jade finds Nik dead in his room the next morning.

Isolate the drama and action

Down the margin of the page, jot down the numbers 1 to 10. Next to each write down the sequence of events – focusing only the parts where ‘something happens’ in one clear and simple sentence – make sure it has an action word. It could look like this:

  1. Nik convinces Jade to let him go to Chrome Bar.
  2. At bar, Jade has to deal with a nosy journalist.
  3. She thinks the bar is too crowded and insists they return to suite.
  4. Just then a Kim Kardashian-lookalike model arrives at the bar. Nik offers to buy her a mojito.
  5. Nik openly flirts with ‘Kim’ to annoy Jade.
  6. Nik whispers to Jade that he and ‘Kim’ are going up to his suite.
  7. She follows them up to the penthouse and does a security check.
  8. While ‘Kim’ is in the bathroom, Jade checks her purse for any cameras or listening devices.
  9. In the adjoining suite, Jade is restless but eventually falls asleep.
  10. The next morning, she opens Nik’s door and finds him naked and dead, with a bullet hole in the middle of his head. ‘Kim’ is gone.

Tease out each plot point

Now, all you have to do is take each plot point and write 100-150 words on each and you’ll have your scene written before you know it. This is where you can have fun with character development, dialogue, etc., knowing your ‘story spine’ is in place.

Five tips to keep you on track
  1. Always end the scene on a high note or cliffhanger or twist if you can. You want the reader to think, ‘What happens next?’
  2. Be clear what your character’s goal is in the scene. In this scene it may be: ‘Jade wants to keep Nik safe but can’t protect him from himself.’
  3. You can use a single setting or multiple locations, but the plot should be the consistent thread in the scene.
  4. Don’t ‘dawdle’ in the scene.  Be careful of going off on tangents. Keep the story moving forward.
  5. Put a time limit on your planning so that you’re not tempted to populate it with unnecessary detail.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Unhinged — Three Plot Devices You Should Definitely Be Using
  2. Visual Storytelling – The Silent Ballet
  3. Three Ways To Start Writing – Without The Fear

TIP: If you want help writing a book, buy The Novel Writing Exercises Workbook.

Posted on: 27th May 2015

6 thoughts on “How To Plot A Perfect Scene In 10 Minutes”

  1. This is a great advice. I am in a process of outlining and it this article was very motivational because it all looks so simple now and step by step… Thank you.

  2. Some useful information here. I have to disagree with the third point though. A scene should usually take place in a discrete location, not from place to place to place. Scenes that are not bound by place and time tend to ramble. I see several scenes in your list of 10, not one. That said, I do intend to use this short piece with my creative writing class, but as always I will point out both the content I agree with and that which doesn’t mesh with what I consider common practice. Thanks for sharing it.

  3. Anthony Ehlers

    Thanks, Reticula. I always encourage people to use what works for them. I’m just not sure how you’d write a scene of a policeman chasing a suspect in a busy city in one location? But you’re right in that my breakdown could possibly be more than one scene – the scene at the bar could be a unit on its own. Thanks for the feedback though 🙂

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