Just Write

Scene Checklist

Photo by Deborah Diem

Every scene should be told through a character’s point of view. You can have more than one pov character in a book, (but no more than you need).

One reason for this type of focusing is so that we feel the character struggle with a scene goal. The struggle takes place through action and dialogue with little internalization/exposition.

A scene is a dramatic unit that includes scene goal, conflict (through action and dialogue) and resolution.

What does your protagonist want in the story? This is the external plot.

The external plot could be as simple as: Will Jane find the killer?? It is not something like: Will Jane find true happiness? This is internal conflict and may even be a subplot.

What does your pov character want in this scene (scene goal)? Without a clear scene goal, you will not have a scene; you will have an event.

What’s at stake? What will happen if the character doesn’t reach the desired scene goal?

Where is the scene taking place?

Scenes in most coffee shops and bars are weak. Take that scene in the bar and put it on a ski slope, on a sailboat, or in a factory that manufactures frozen enchiladas.

What time is the scene taking place and what month? This will determine how the characters dress.

Antagonist in this scene?

What does character want in this scene?

What does character do to get his/her way in this scene?

Have you incorporated action in the scene?

Have you incorporated dialogue?

What is the emotional state of the protagonist?

Resolution: How does scene end? Does character achieve scene goal?

Adapted from outline by Bonnie Hearn Hill from a lecture by Cindy Wathen.

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