Tag Archive - 10 Key Scenes

Story Structure and the Essential Outline

I do a lot of scene outlines for writers. And I’ve written a lot of blog posts on the topic. Working on your story at the outline level gives you a bird’s-eye view of your plot. And that’s super helpful. Even if you just start with a few sentences to describe what happens in each scene and the purpose of the scene will take you far.

I use index cards for plotting and have done so on the last ten or more novels. I love jotting down scene ideas on a card, sticking it in my stack of scene ideas, and eventually laying them all out on the floor or my kitchen table and putting them in order.

Of course the order is determined by specific story structure! If you don’t know anything about story structure, now’s the time to learn! You need to know where specific plot elements go, such as your inciting incident, twists, pinch points, midpoint, dark night moment … and more. And you need to know what happens in those scenes.

Something that will help you a lot in getting story structure under your belt is my online video course The 10 Key Scenes That Frame Up Your Novel. In addition to getting to watch a lot of fun movie clips (get the popcorn!), you will clearly see what these scenes are all about so you can ensure you have them in your story.

Whether you are writing a movie, a novel or novella, or a play, you need to understand this structure. Yes, genre will come into play here. You need to know your genre and genre markers. But structure is structure. Continue Reading…

Conflict in Story: Character versus Self

This post is a reprint from a few years ago, shared again to help you nail the opposition in your story.

Traditionally, there are four general types of opposition at the heart of a story. While our protagonist might face multiple kinds of opposition, the primary one will usually fall into man vs. man, man vs. nature, man vs. society, or man vs. self (and of course you can replace man with woman, or robot, or alien).

In story structure, there are key scenes in which the opposition rears its/his/her ugly head and “pinches” the protagonist—hence why these are called “pinch points.”

Two specific pinch points occur in traditional story structure, the first one falling between the 25% mark (turning point #2) and the midpoint (turning point #3) and the second one around the 67% mark (before the Dark Night of the Soul moment).

The purpose of the first pinch point is generally to introduce the opposition to the reader. The second pinch point reveals the full force of the opposition. Continue Reading…

12 Weeks to Writing Your 10 Key Scenes

Anyone who tells you that writing a novel is easy doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Plain and simple.

Great novels are complex. And while seasoned writers like Stephen King might claim they never plot, their years of experience in writing well-structured stories merely shows their brains are entrenched in solid story structure. They plot intuitively. Kind of like how, once you learn to ride a bike or snowboard, you don’t think about it. You just do it. At least, that’s what I do–whether I’m plotting or snowboarding.

I don’t have to use my plotting outlines and templates anymore because I know in my bones where the twists and pinch points and all those other milestones need to show up in my story.

But if you haven’t written a couple of dozen novels and “gotten the hang” of traditional, expected, solid story structure, you’re going to need some help.

And that’s why there are lots of books, podcasts, and courses on plot and structure.

I wrote Layer Your Novel because I couldn’t find a simple, clear step-by-step method of approaching novel structure. I floundered writing my first four or five novels until I learned there was such a thing. Continue Reading…

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