“Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable way that allows the events to feel as though they are happening in real time.”
—Jordan E. Rosenfeld (Make a Scene)
[ ] Has 3 reasons the scene should exist. Possibilities:
- Progresses or changes character’s goal
- Moves plot forward
- Adds conflict between opposing characters
- Introduces a character
- Develops a character
- Raises stakes
[ ] Clear beginning, middle, climax (disaster), and end.
[ ] Opening hook – lines that grab reader.
[ ] Opens mid action – not description or explanation.
[ ] Action scenes – goal->conflict->disaster. 1
[ ] Reaction scene – response->dilemma->decision. 1
[ ] Point of view (POV) character – character with the most to lose in the scene – reveal immediately.
[ ] Reader immediately grounded in who, what, where, when, why.
[ ] Setting – revealed through what POV character reacts to, sees, hears, does.
[ ] Something’s at stake, or story stakes are raised or reinforced – make situation worse, or stakes matter more.
[ ] Fear hovers – character might not meet her scene goal.
[ ] Actions –interesting; advance plot or exhibit character; performed in real time.
[ ] Pace – appropriate for what’s happening.
[ ] Mood, tone, or author’s voice – realistic for scene, and the book’s genre.
[ ] Obstacles – people, events, emotions, secrets get in the way of characters meeting their goals.
[ ] Climax (disaster) – relevant to the plot or characterization.
[ ] Element of suspense, surprise, twist, or foreshadowing – creates anticipation; delivers a worthy payoff relevant to plot or characterization.
[ ] Metaphor or symbol.
[ ] Ending hook – transitions to next scene; entices reader to read on.
[ ] Clear wants, emotional and physical – drive actions, dialogue, thoughts.
[ ] Pushes away from something negative; pulls toward something positive (emotional or physical). 1
[ ] A hint of victory; two hints of failure. 1
[ ] Conflicting values.
[ ] Reader can identify or empathize; knows whom to root for.
[ ] Secondary characters – clear purpose for being in scene.
[ ] Hints of wounds, fears. Or competencies.
[ ] Reactions shown – to stimuli that affect feelings.
[ ] Balanced emotion, dialogue, internalization (considering scene type).
[ ] 5 senses included – sight, sound, taste, touch, smell.
[ ] Tight, every word needed.
[ ] Interesting; moves scene forward.
[ ] Natural – leaves out boring parts of actual dialogue.
[ ] Characters’ voices – distinctive; could know speaker by his word choices.
[ ] Reveals or hints at emotions, undercurrents, or secrets.
[ ] Reveals character, plot, conflicts, or bits of important information.
[ ] Includes a zinger – jibe, bold truth, dry or humorous comment. 1
[ ] Action beats or simple speaker attributes (said) – identifies speaker.
[ ] Clichés – in dialogue, characterization, plot.
[ ] Coincidences (something drops in to save the day).
[ ] Vagueness (it, that, pronouns that don’t tie, etc.).
[ ] Clever writing that adds nothing; confuses.
[ ] Boring, purposeless sentences and paragraphs.
[ ] Detailed body movement descriptions.
[ ] Unnecessary explanations.
[ ] Weasel words – except when they work in dialogue.
[ ] Clear, concise, uncomplicated sentences.
[ ] Correct words (dictionary and thesaurus).
[ ] Power noun, verbs.
[ ] Short narratives when necessary (getting from one place to another).
[ ] Active voice – limit “was.”
[ ] Positive form used when possible.
[ ] Backload – ending words (sentence and paragraph) that tie to passage’s meaning.
1 Idea from Susan May Warren’s MBT Deep Thinkers Retreat manual.
Transform your scene with this comprehensive checklist. Click to tweet.
What would you add to this checklist?