Tag Archive - 10 Key Scenes

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…

Choosing the Right Scenes to Go in the Right Places

My guess is that few novel writers spend time thinking about scene choice or type and the placement of specific types of scenes in a novel. Yet, it’s the key to solid story structure.

What do I mean?

Scenes are the backbone and heart of novels. There are many types of scenes and many ways to write them. Genre is the biggest concern because in order to write the perfect scenes for your story, you need to know whom you are writing to.

Too often writers sit down and pull a scene out of their heads. They don’t spend much time planning the purpose of the scene. This speaks to a bigger issue: lack of overall plotting. If you don’t understand novel structure and what the key turning points are, you will find it challenging to write the kinds of scenes needed.

Certain types of scenes are found in different sections of a novel. Setup scenes are focused on setting up character, conflict, stakes, and premise in the opening scenes. Scenes near the climax are about high stakes and high energy.

Middle scenes are about progress and setback, rise in action, twists and victories. Later scenes are intensified in action, emotion, stakes, consequences.

In general, scenes are either low-energy or high-energy. Too many introspective scenes showing characters sitting around thinking will bore readers. Conversely, too many back-to-back action scenes with little down time or character processing will tire readers and cause them to disengage with the characters. Continue Reading…

The Intersection of Character Transformation and Moral Dilemma

The protagonist’s transformational journey is highlighted in countless stories, whether novels, movies, or plays. If you take time to examine some of your favorite stories, you should be able to identify key scenes or moments in which this transformation gradually takes place. It’s the events that transpire that erode the persona and emphasize to the character that living in that identity isn’t working.

People don’t change overnight; it’s a process. And when we write a story, we want that process to be believable. While there are six stages in the process, you might have a dozen or more scenes in which your character’s beliefs, opinions, and biases are challenged, one bit at a time.

What Theme Really Is

Keep in mind this truth: the theme of your story is your character’s inner motivation made universal. What drives him, what plagues him, what consumes him is what propels him toward the visible goal.

These key transformational scenes with your protagonist are the ones that will shine a light on the themes of your story.

Consider the movie Hostiles, which I explored in another post. The title itself implies the theme and poses the moral dilemma Capt. Blocker faces. Who truly is the hostile?

The question Blocker asks himself, essentially, is this: “How am I all that different from those I hate?” In asking that question, consciously or subconsciously, the theme is brought to the forefront. Continue Reading…

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