Day 21: Scene Planning

Now, that we have explored plot rather exhaustively, let’s turn our attention to putting meat on the bones of our structural skeleton by building out the individual scenes that make up our story.

This will be a fairly short post, but it is dense with actions items to get you ready for November. After today’s article, the amount of homework will level off significantly!

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big aficionado of Scrivener as my word processing tool for fiction writing. I like Scrivener because it organizes the writing into scenes that can be placed within chapters. Scenes can then easily be moved around until you get the ordering of events just right. Perhaps as a function of working in Scrivener, I now think in terms of scenes and can’t imagine approaching story creation in any other fashion.

While my software naturally directed me to organize by scene, what I wasn’t doing at first was planning out my scenes, at least not beyond having a barebones outline like the one I shared with you yesterday. Later I stumbled upon scene planners that got me thinking more strategically about the intent and content of scenes.

Today I have a really simple thesis for you: it is helpful to plan out your scenes in advance. Here is a one-page scene planner to help you do that:

Scene Planner Template

You might balk at the amount of work required to write up a one-pager for every single scene. And I’ll confess, having stumbled upon this process fairly late, I haven’t crafted a plan for every scene. But I will say that I’ve never regretted the time spent to carefully plan out a scene.

It is probably obvious, but the more daunting a scene, the more you can benefit from plotting it out in some detail. But even the simplest scenes can benefit from this treatment. You might find ways to make those scenes pull double and even triple duty. Or you might find yourself struggling to answer the question “Why is this scene vital?” and then ultimately choosing to scrap the scene.

So, I encourage you to give it a try. Map out at least five scenes and see what impact that has on your ability to compose those scenes.

I believe the questions posed on the planner are fairly self-explanatory. Only one requires a bit more explanation: Scene Type. In their helpful book, Writing Deep Scenes, Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld outline fifteen types of scenes. They go into great detail describing how these various types are differentiated from each other and exploring the elements that might be present in each. Here, I will simply name the scene types and refer you back to the book if you’d like to delve more deeply into the topic.

Alderson and Rosenfeld’s Scene Types:

  • Climax
  • Contemplative
  • Crisis
  • Dialogue
  • Epiphany
  • Escape
  • Final
  • First
  • Lay-of-the-Land
  • Love
  • Recommitment
  • Resolution
  • Suspense
  • Transition
  • Twister

So, happy scene planning! Let me know: what question did you find the most useful? The most challenging?

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Table of contents for other articles in the series.

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