Below is a guest blog from Anthony Ehlers, an author and blogger with a strong writing group in Johannesburg.
Breaking up your scene into bite-size units will make your plotting and writing easier. It will also save you time because you won’t have frustrating rewrites.
Plotting is really a ‘to-do list’ for you as a writer – you need to know what will drive the story forward, what settings you will throw into the mix, what conflict your characters will face, and where the scene will end.
Block out the scene
Say you’re going to write a scene of about 1,000-1,500 words, you’ll probably need 10 plot points to keep you on track. Grab a piece of lined paper. At the top of the page, put your scene summary in a block. For example: Nik, the rock star that VIP bodyguard Jade is protecting, picks up a model at the hotel bar. Jade finds Nik dead in his room the next morning.
Isolate the drama and action
Down the margin of the page, jot down the numbers 1 to 10. Next to each write down the sequence of events – focusing only the parts where ‘something happens’ in one clear and simple sentence – make sure it has an action word. It could look like this:
- Nik convinces Jade to let him go to Chrome Bar.
- At bar, Jade has to deal with a nosy journalist.
- She thinks the bar is too crowded and insists they return to suite.
- Just then a Kim Kardashian-lookalike model arrives at the bar. Nik offers to buy her a mojito.
- Nik openly flirts with ‘Kim’ to annoy Jade.
- Nik whispers to Jade that he and ‘Kim’ are going up to his suite.
- She follows them up to the penthouse and does a security check.
- While ‘Kim’ is in the bathroom, Jade checks her purse for any cameras or listening devices.
- In the adjoining suite, Jade is restless but eventually falls asleep.
- The next morning, she opens Nik’s door and finds him naked and dead, with a bullet hole in the middle of his head. ‘Kim’ is gone.
Tease out each plot point
Now, all you have to do is take each plot point and write 100-150 words on each and you’ll have your scene written before you know it. This is where you can have fun with character development, dialogue, etc., knowing your ‘story spine’ is in place.
Five tips to keep you on track
- Always end the scene on a high note or twist if you can. You want the reader to think, ‘What happens next?’
- Be clear what your character’s goal is in the scene. In this scene it may be: ‘Jade wants to keep Nik safe but can’t protect him from himself.’
- You can use a single setting or multiple locations, but the plot should be the consistent thread in the scene.
- Don’t ‘dawdle’ in the scene. Be careful of going off on tangents. Keep the story moving forward.
- Put a time limit on your planning so that you’re not tempted to populate it with unnecessary detail.
If you want to learn how to write a book, join our Writers Write course in Johannesburg.
by Anthony Ehlers
If you enjoyed this post, read:
- Unhinged — Three Plot Devices You Should Definitely Be Using
- Visual Storytelling – The Silent Ballet
- Three Ways To Start Writing – Without The Fear
Anthony Ehlers is a reluctant blogger. A child of the 70s, he’s a late converter to the (sometimes scary) world of social media. As a creative writing facilitator, he loves sharing ideas around storytelling and the blog post is another way to reach out to fellow writers no matter their stage of the journey. He always encourages delegates with energy, humour and his insights into novels, short stories and scriptwriting. He sometimes lurks on Facebook and flits on to a branch of Twitter when his Inbox is empty (which isn’t a lot these days).
Thanks for stopping by! Hope you enjoyed this guest blog. Do you have advice to share about writing great scenes?
Elva Cobb Martin