Writing Scenes with a Purpose

I know this may sound silly and obvious, but your scenes need to have a purpose. Thing is, so many scenes that I edit and critique seem purposeless. Or the purpose is irrelevant to the premise. Or to the plot. Or doesn’t help reveal anything of importance about the characters.

I remember Donald Maass talking at his weeklong breakout novel workshop about this. He said something like, “You can’t imagine how many middle scenes I’ve read in novels that accomplish nothing.”

Same idea. Your scene shouldn’t just be entertaining or tense or exciting to read; it has to serve a specific purpose in light of your overall plot and premise. Every scene.

So how do you go about this?

Well, first thing: plot our your story, and make sure you have a riveting, fresh premise. If your premise is boring and predictable, it’s going to be hard to write a story that’s not boring and predictable.

Okay, check. You have a great premise (and if you don’t know what a premise is, read this and this and this, for starters). You’ve laid out (at least) your ten key scenes as a foundation for your story (and you know your five turning points). Check.

Now you have a lot of great ideas for scenes that will make up the exciting action of your story. Maybe you put them all on index cards, like I do. Or you use a software program like Scrivener to input your scene ideas.

But this is where the brutal examination begins.

You need to think about what this scene needs to accomplish to advance and complicate your plot. Or maybe it’s an early setup scene that hints at the premise. Depending on where the scene will go also informs the purpose.

Using my handy 8-Step chart will help you make some important decisions.

Try to think beyond the simplistic and obvious. Your scene’s purpose might be to introduce your opposition for your protagonist. Maybe it’s your first pinch point. But don’t stop there at introductions. Think about what else this scene might accomplish. Can you bring in bits to build your world? Can you ramp up the inner and outer conflict, raise the stakes, add microtension? These are all elements that elevate scenes from good to great.

Enroll in 8 Weeks to Writing a Commercially Successful Novel

If you don’t know how to write masterful scenes, and you aren’t certain what the markers are for your genre, you have some learning to do.

Why is genre important? Because your novel must fit into a specific “space” where your target reader will find you. And you have to write to your target reader’s expectations.

In my course, you will learn innovative techniques to nailing your genre as you master the 8 essentials for commercial success.

Every scene must build to a high moment and punch home the purpose in the last few lines. Every scene must be in deep POV, be packed with microtension, conflict and high stakes, move readers emotionally, and be rich in sensory detail.

You will learn all this and so much more in this course. Enroll today for lifetime access!

Testimonials from students who’ve taken this course:

“Susanne’s Master Critique Groups show you how to develop and polish every aspect of your scenes. Her wealth of experience and compassionate teaching will help you keep your readers hooked on every page.”  —Will Wraxall

“I had hit a brick wall and not written anything in six months. This workshop was a much needed kick in the pants. I found the commitment to submit a scene a week for critiquing, and critiquing two other writers’ scene every week, fleshed out the helpful basics Susanne teaches. What I learned about writing gave me a fresh evaluation of my work and more importantly the motivation and the tools to enjoy writing again.” —Gene Quinones

“I have learned SO much in such a short space of time. It was a big commitment to make, but it was so, so worth it. I won’t ever regret it—at the very least, my writing will be so much better than before. The very best outcome is beyond exciting and I feel far more confident about making that dream a reality.” —Liz Thompson

“As someone who has only really started writing about a year ago, I can say without doubt that this course has made my writing 1,000 times better. Not just simple things like not putting in so many speech tags or formatting. The structure of my novel, the POV, sensory detail. While I had some of these things already, learning what works and what doesn’t has improved my writing. I honestly did not know what to expect when I joined this course, but it has changed my writing and my joy of writing for the better. I cannot thank Susanne enough, and I look forward to continuing to learn from her in the future.” —Joshua Bruce

“The master critique group has been amazing. Since starting this group, my writing skills and grasp of story mechanics have improved exponentially due to Susanne’s guidance and direction as well as input from members of the group. I was stuck writing on my own, and this has given me the push and tools I needed to accomplish my goals.” —Jenny Perry, PhD

“Susanne’s Master Critique Group was very useful for receiving external feedback on my work. I learned a lot by doing this course and improved my ability to critique and see what needs revising in my own work as well. Susanne is a great teacher, full of energy and enthusiasm and can edit a writer’s scene without offending but illuminating where it can be improved. It wasn’t easy but I thoroughly enjoyed the process.” —Samantha Ridgway

While this method is really the “secret” to success, it’s no secret. Highly productive, successful authors infuse their scenes with these 8 essentials, whether they use this method of studying other best sellers or not.

However, whether you are a beginning novelist or have a number of novels published, here’s the thing: you don’t know what you don’t know. And unless someone points out what your weak areas are or where you are missing elements in your scenes, you can’t tell why your scene isn’t working. And this course will reveal to you anything you are missing, with hours of video instruction and dozens of sample scenes and worksheets! Enroll HERE.

Featured Photo by Smart on Unsplash

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