1. LuminousTyto
    Offline

    LuminousTyto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At my computer desk?

    Writing Scenes Checklist - Any opnions on what might be added?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by LuminousTyto, Oct 20, 2012.

    Okay, so I've compiled a short checklist of essential elements and reminders that should be included in most, if not all scenes. I was wondering if anyone had any input on what else might be added to the checklist?

    I think it's a good idea to have the checklist in an open document as you write, so not to forget major elements that should be included in your scenes.

    Here it is:

    WRITING SCENES CHECKLIST
    Does the scene have a POV character with a clearly defined goal?
    Does the scene contain conflict?
    Does the scene deliver an emotional experience?
    Is there opposition (in the form of an antagonist) to the POV character in the scene?
    Does the scene use the 3 act structure?
    Does the POV character in the scene have reader identification?
    Does the scene portray a sense of progression?
    Would the scene be entertaining to the reader?
    Does the scene contain strong descriptions?
    Does the scene lack or sag in any place?
    Don’t forget, the scene can start in medias res (in the middle).
    Don’t forget possible chapter or scene breaks right when the action hits the roof.
    What is the level of emotional intensity for this scene?
    Is the setting in this scene vivid?
    Does this scene employ any of the 5 senses?
    POV character has goal - encounters opposition - fails goal - things get worse - POV character reels - decisions for new goals are all bad - decision on recourse is made - new goal determined.
    Remember, the POV character doesn’t have to fail or achieve his goal in one “scene part.”
    Remember, many whole scenes are cut up so that other scenes can be interwoven within the narrative—every POV character needs page time.
     
  2. Nicholas C.
    Offline

    Nicholas C. Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 22, 2011
    Messages:
    209
    Likes Received:
    5
    I think this is a great idea. Having said that, I don't know that I necessarily agree with all of the criteria in the context of the individual scene. In other words, if you're trying to create conflict in every scene, I think it will desensitize the reader to some extent, particularly when you arrive at the climax of the story and you really need the element of conlflict to hit at it's absolute hardest. I think the same can be said for the presence of an antagonistic force in every scene.

    I also don't know that I agree with the idea that all or most individual scenes should be crafted with the 3 act structure. I think it helps the flow of the story to have a healthy mix of scenes that vary in length, structure, etc.

    But overall, I do like the idea.
     
  3. LuminousTyto
    Offline

    LuminousTyto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At my computer desk?
    I believe every single scene has to have conflict. It doesn't need to be overt violent conflict or people yelling at each other. Conflict can range from very subtle to extreme, and I think it always needs to be present, especially what they call "micro tension" which is subtle interior conflict of the POV character.

    As far as the 3 act structure is concerned, I know what you mean, and that's where the list gets a little confusing I think, because scenes are chopped up so that other scenes can get intertwined. Like in a movie, when in one scene a guy is rowing a boat down a stream, and then there's a quick cut to another guy doing his own thing. In writing, each of those quick cuts are scenes, but what about the whole? The guy rows his boat down the stream, he encounters some gorilla fighters, and then is killed. The beginning would be the guy rowing his boar, the middle, he spots the gorillas and tries to escape, and the end, he gets shot and is killed, yet this moment is chopped up to put in other clips of another character in a completely different place who's doing something else. So those little scene clips shouldn't have the 3 act structure, but the scene as a whole actually does, and this is what makes minor crisis through the work. They're actually the high points of these longer moments which use the 3 act structure.

    Edit:

    Yeah, but really a protagonist can really be anything that tries to thwart the goals of the protagonist. A wall can be an antagonist which stops the POV character from getting into the tomb on the other side. So when I say "antagonist" I'm not necessarily talking about the big bad guy at the end. For instance, a second protagonist could have a disagreement with the main character on how to get through the wall, this makes him "in this scene" an antagonist, and it causes conflict with the main character, even though his friend isn't actually a bad guy.

    What do you think?

    I suppose some of the things in my list are a bit vague, no?
     
  4. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Well, I think a more concise list might be the following:
    1. Progression of plot
    2. Goal
    3. Conflict/Action
    4. Resolution
    5. Relationship development between characters
    6. MC or POV character's internal development/insight into character's internal world
    7. Humour

    I don't think there's such a need to be specific - I'd personally end up forgetting the details haha :D I prefer bullet point reminders.

    However, you've made a very good list!
     
  5. LuminousTyto
    Offline

    LuminousTyto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At my computer desk?
    Thanks! You mentioned a few things in your own list which I think need adding. I think character development is very important, especially if your character is going to grow for better or for worse by the end of the story.

    Resolution I believe is covered in "does the scene fallow a 3 act structure?" Beginning, middle, end (resolution). And like I explained to Nickolas, not every scene seems to have a resolution until later scenes in the work.
     
  6. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    If you need a checklist at all, compose it from what you have seen while revising your story, or from critiques you have received.

    One size does NOT fit all!
     
  7. minstrel
    Online

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Messages:
    8,727
    Likes Received:
    4,822
    Location:
    Near Los Angeles
    I recoil from the very idea of using a checklist to write scenes. It's too paint-by-numbers for me. I just write my story and then read it over. If a scene just seems to be sitting there taking up space and not doing anything useful for the story in some way, I take it out. Often I find that, not only did that particular scene not need to be there, but nothing at all needed to be there. If, however, deleting the scene leaves a gap that must be filled, I at least know exactly what is missing, and therefore what to write to fill that gap.

    Where do people get the idea for scene checklists, character sheets, and the like, anyway? I doubt they get these ideas from great writers. Scene checklists seem to be the kind of thing authors of "how to write" books put into those books to justify charging money for them.
     
  8. LuminousTyto
    Offline

    LuminousTyto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At my computer desk?
    I know you might feel that a 'checklist' is too formulaic but these elements I've listed in my checklist are fundamental to good writing. Obviously not every single one of these elements has to be incorporated into scenes, but the list is a good reminder.

    I also understand how you might be skeptical of 'how to' books on writing fiction.

    Not sure if you're a fan of Brandon Sanderson, but he's a professional fantasy author and he confirms all the things which I said are fundamental to writing solid fiction. He doesn't present these facts as a checklist, but he does talk about them.

    Check out his lectures. I found them very interesting!
     
  9. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I'm with minstrel on this one. The problem with checklists is that they encourage tunnel vision. You get so focused on the bullet points you lose sight of the writing as a dynamic, living whole.

    That being said, I do recommend choosing a small number of specific objectives for a revision pass. That way you do keep focus in a stage where focus is most needed. Anything you notice in the course of following a revision plan, take note of for a subsequent pass.

    The difference is that you examine the writing first to decide what the three to five objectives will most improve the writing during that pass, rather than creating an all-purpose checklist.
     
  10. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,993
    Likes Received:
    5,503
    I'm struggling to see how _all nineteen_ of these points would apply to more than an occasional scene--and that's ignoring the question of whether it's possible to write while juggling nineteen points in your head. Does anyone have an example of a real scene in a real novel where they all apply?

    In particular this one:

    "POV character has goal - encounters opposition - fails goal - things get worse - POV character reels - decisions for new goals are all bad - decision on recourse is made - new goal determined."

    Is this really supposed to _all_ happen in each and every scene?
     
  11. LuminousTyto
    Offline

    LuminousTyto Senior Member

    Joined:
    Jul 2, 2012
    Messages:
    118
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    At my computer desk?
    I suppose the word "checklist" is misleading. I should have titled it "reminders." Of course not everything in that list is a must for every single scene (obviously) but many of those elements are integral to good fiction and it's up to the writer's own intuition on what he/she needs in a particular scene. This "checklist" is just a set of good reminders so that the writer doesn't forget

    "POV character has goal - encounters opposition - fails goal - things get worse - POV character reels - decisions for new goals are all bad - decision on recourse is made - new goal determined."

    This is the "try-fail" cycle, which all good fiction employs to some extent. Now like my checklist says, this whole cycle isn't always completed in one scene alone. For instance, the main POV character say, is trying to complete the main goal of the story, that's what act 2 is for, the try fail cycle until act 3's resolution.

    Not to mention you have to keep in mind and ask yourself, what is the current scene goal for the POV character for this specific scene? If a detective is trying to find a murderer he will have to take other smaller steps in ultimately achieving this large goal. These smaller goals use the try-fail cycle as well. Because if the main character always achieves his goals, there's no conflict.

    I'm also an outliner, so when I create my synopsis of each scene I can determine what elements I'll need in the scene, and my "reminder list" will help me not accidentally leave out an important elements that's required in the scene.

    As far as blank pagers go, I can see why this list might sound like a bad idea. Maybe keep it around during the revision phase, since blank pagers do a lot of revising, as we all know.
     
  12. mammamaia
    Offline

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2006
    Messages:
    19,316
    Likes Received:
    1,014
    Location:
    Coquille, Oregon
    sorry, but i'm with minstrel, cog and chicken freak on this issue...

    formulaic writing is not 'creative' writing, imo... i see no benefit to following any such list... and i feel sure that few [if any] successful fiction writers do... none of the bestselling authors i've known did... even bob ludlum, who told me he knows his international intrigue bestsellers are pretty much 'pancake' novels [his own term!], wrote with no formula other than a general plot/character one...
     

Share This Page