Raise the Quality of Your Scenes with This Checklist Item

“My 16 years in radio drama has influenced me. You only have 45 minutes, and 7000 words, to tell a story, so every scene has to have a point.” —Rachel Joyce

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Most novelists who have a scene checklist look for at least:Where,_When,_Who,_What,_Why,_How^_-_NARA_-_534144

  • A goal
  • A conflict
  • Increased motivation/stakes.
  • The Who, What, Where, When, and Why
  • The 5 senses
  • Engaging dialog
  • Tight, clear sentences
  • No clichés
  • Active voice

 

Debra Dixon pushes us to go further. She instructs in GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict that we justify the existence of each scene. She holds that the scene should have at least three reasons to remain in the book.

by mitchlee83 Cut or keep the scene.
by mitchlee83
Cut or keep the scene.

Three Reasons for a Scene to Exist

First for Reason 1, Ms. Dixon says the scene should do at least one of the GMC jobs below:

1,  “Dramatically illustrate a character’s progress toward the goal or provide an experience which changes the character’s goal.”

2.  “Bring a character into conflict with opposing forces.”

3.  “Provide a character with an experience that strengthens his motivation or changes his motivation.”

Then Ms. Dixon challenges us to choose at least two other reasons of our own design to include the scene in our novel. She gives several popular reasons, such as:

  • “introduce a new character”
  • “reveal secrets”
  • “speed the pacing”
Painting by Vladimir Loukitch
Painting by Vladimir Loukitch

So, I randomly chose a scene from the Regency, Accidental Fiancée, by Mary Moore. Here’s what I found:

  1. Progress toward the goal: The hero and heroine discuss possible solutions and obstacles to saving their reputations and avoiding destroying the heroine’s sister’s presentation this season.
  1. Conflict: The heroine isn’t cooperating fully with the hero, a rake, because he took a liberty in the last scene to prove a point.
  1. Other Reason 1: The scene gives us a glimpse that the hero is less rakish than he puts on.
  1. Other Reason 2: After much conflict in this and the prior scene, this one ends with the hero providing us some comic relief.

Now I know why the scene engaged me.

Hopefully I include at least three reasons for my scenes. But to make sure I do, I’m adding Ms. Dixon’s suggestion to my checklist.

Make sure you have three reasons for your scene to exist. Click to tweet.

What are other reasons you might include a scene in your books?

6 thoughts on “Raise the Quality of Your Scenes with This Checklist Item

  1. Marcia A. Lahti

    Love this. Watch out Crit partners.

     
     
    1. Oops. My critique partner may read this!

       
       
  2. Excellent advice!! I’m sending this to a couple of writers I know. 🙂

     
     
  3. And, I’m printing it out for me!

     
     
    1. P.T., I did as I said in the post. I too printed it out and put it with my scene check list.

       
       

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