- advance the protagonist towards her/his goal?
- or add to the conflict?
Have you shown the change? (It should be a micro-change.) Is the micro-change justified by what just happened?
- Is each leap forward incremental?
- Or has the character made some huge leaps forward that aren’t justified by the action in the plot? (This is one of the signs of melodramatic writing.)
- Do you need to add a scene that shows the missing bit of growth?
- Character goes into the scene with a Goal (what he/she wants to accomplish in this particular scene.) For example, in the armory scene in my Arthurian novel, The Deadly Peace, my heroine’s goal is to figure out a way to get her father, the Regent, to set a date for her Coronation.
- Something happens to block the character from achieving her/his goal. This is the Conflict. In my scene, my heroine and her friends come up with a plan, but it involves sending out invitations. None of them has handwriting good enough to write out official invitations, and everyone in the castle who does is in her father’s employ.
- The character takes action or makes a decision and there is a Result (sometimes called the Disaster) which sets back the character or somehow causes him/her to change direction or try a different tack. In my scene, my heroine is forced to seek help from someone she considers her enemy.
- Character Reacts emotionally to the Result or Disaster. Swain suggests this should be a visceral response, which I’ll discuss more in a later blog.
- Character considers his/her Options, none of which are particularly good. This sets up a hard choice, which creates more tension or conflict.
- Character makes a Choice or Decision, which then creates the Goal for the next scene.
- Have I set the introduction/opening of the scene as close to the action of the scene as I can? Or is there time wasted doing things like getting the character into the room, making polite introductions, pouring tea, etc?
- Does the scene build to a climax in which the protagonist is forced to take an action he/she may not have wanted to take?
- Is there a disaster in the outcome? (This provides your hook.)
- Did I get out of the scene immediately after that, or does the scene peter out and lose its tension?
Margie Lawson, whose EDITS course (in fact all her courses) are must-dos for serious writers, makes a great point about chapter breaks. End it where you don’t expect a break and it will create a hook. Don’t have the scene where the debutant is rifling through the antagonist’s desk during his ball end with her having found the evidence she needs. End it with him coming into the room before she’s completed her search.
Next post: Scene Layering and Show and Tell