Writing Challenges and Figuring Out the Scene Cards

Thinking that it would drop kick me back into noveling action, I thought that I would step into the Book in a Month challenge set forward by Victoria Lynn Schmidt.

So off I went and joined the Yahoo e-group connected to the book (VBIAMClub), which seems to have garnered quite a number of members. While the current challenge is running from 15 March to 15 April, there appear to be any number of different challenges going on simultaneously. Or at least a couple seem to be couple different challenges going on…or starting.

Anyhow, I joined and set up my goals…or rather goal–continue/finish the novel I’d started during Nanowrimo this past November. I’d finished the 50K words. But I soooo wasn’t done with the novel. So I got down to brass tacks and read through chunks of the book to figure out what it was that I was supposed to be doing according to the book, which is great I suppose. After all, there are lots of things that I know my Nano novel was missing…including some more in-depth character development and such. (I’ve been wandering confused…back and forth re: character sketches).

Work, as usual, got in the way. But I figured that I’d catch up over the weekend. I wrote up the Log Line as well as the back cover description. I got the basics of the outline figured out. I even got the Story Idea Map going for Chapter 1 as a way of getting back into the story. And then I ran into the challenge…scene cards.

Schmidt mentions that there ought to be 10 core scene cards. One for the beginning…one for the end. The rest of the scene cards fill out the middle ground between the middle and the end. Some of them are related to the various plot points embedded within the three acts.

But that’s where my confusion begins. Where she advises that there not be that many actual scene shifts, I’m trying to figure out  whether or not those scenes are changes in locations or more overarching re: a particular story point that starts in one location and ends up in another.

The folks over at Scriptfrenzy (an idea I’m toying around with) have set up a scene worksheet that has a series of questions that might be helpful in developing the ins and outs of those scenes…once I figure out what is and isn’t considered a scene .

So I scanned that, and it looks very helpful. But it still leaves me with questions about what is considered a scene. Still confused, I found this article “Writing a Screenplay with a Full Deck.” In this article, there’s a discussion about how the storyline is divided up into about 40 different scene cards…some of which appear to deal with the Hero’s Journey (Joseph Campbell rears his head ).

Defining a scene would help…

The purpose of a scene helps achieve coherence in a short story or novel. The fiction writer should have a goal to accomplish with each scene. A scene lets the reader know that the setting has changed too. Common purposes of a scene include:

  • Advance story – The scene must move the story forward. This could mean introducing a problem or making a problem worse for the characters.
  • Show conflict – The conflict could be between two characters, a character and nature, a character and time, and so on.
  • Introduce character – The reader needs to meet each character at some point. A careful writer does not introduce too many characters in one scene. This could confuse the reader.
  • Develop character – Along with introducing a character, a writer can use a scene to show the character’s good and bad points.
  • Create suspense – Suspense keeps the reader’s interest going, perhaps more than any other element of fiction
  • Give information – The writer can weave information into a scene so the reader knows the needed background of the story.
  • Create atmosphere – Using conventions such as setting, weather, and time, the writer can create a certain mood in a scene.
  • Develop theme – A piece of fiction should have a theme. Each scene should bring out the theme to the reader.

Scenes that are memorable, the ones the reader remembers, will attempt to achieve as many of the previously mentioned purposes as possible. If the scene has no purpose — or even has a purpose, but not a sufficient one to justify the space it takes up — the writer should cut that scene out of the story.

Sometimes the scene is followed by a sequel…or aftermath…the fallout of what happened in the last scene:

The Sequel has the three parts Reaction, Dilemma, and Decision. Again, each of these is critical to a successful Sequel. Remove any of them and the Sequel fails to work. Let me add one important point here. The purpose of a Sequel is to follow after a Scene. A Scene ends on a Disaster, and you can’t immediately follow that up with a new Scene, which begins with a Goal. Why? Because when you’ve just been slugged with a serious setback, you can’t just rush out and try something new. You’ve got to recover. That’s basic psychology.

And that led me into the whole thing about writing the “perfect” scene:

As we said, the Scene has the three parts Goal, Conflict, and Disaster. Each of these is supremely important. I am going to define each of these pieces and then explain why each is critical to the structure of the Scene. I assume that you have selected one character to be your Point Of View character. In what follows, I’ll refer to this character as your POV character. Your goal is to convincingly show your POV character experiencing the scene. You must do this so powerfully that your reader experiences the scene as if she were the POV character.

Also found this: How to Avoid Chasing Paper As A Writer

So now I’m off to work out this part of the puzzle…hopefully, I can get that figured out.


    • kredwyn on March 24, 2008 at 5:17 am

    But I’ve got my 3×5 cards and am thinking about all that I’ve already written and what else I need to write…


  1. I always had a lot to say, but I never dared write it down.

    I wasn’t lazy, it was the fact that I knew what good writing looked like, and my writing… if good writing is a Ferrari, then my writing was like a wheelbarrow used to haul compost. In fact, my words substituted for the latter.

    Blogging was the vehicle that changed that for me. My writing may still suck, but at least I am writing. Like safe sex, practice, practice, practice.

    I salute you for daring a novel. My essays and diaries tend to run long, and I fear a novel of mine may never end. Hell, I just posted an essay a couple back from this one about chickens that runs for… it says 55 words, but I suspect there might be a ghost in the machine. Either that, or maybe it feels that is what the essay is worth.

    One question: is it possible that you may be placing too much value on the mechanics? If you have the story in your head, have you tried to pour it out?

    The main reason I ask is because, often, I find myself surprised when writing. I am amazed where it goes when I let it go.

    I am in awe of people. There are so many forms of creativity and so many inspired people creating brilliant work.

    I watched The Royal Tanenbaums this weekend. That movie has so many brilliant little details that I have to shake my head an hope that genius finds me, because I could never plan it ahead. Even little things like naming the central character Royal was a great stroke. Who would think to name their character Royal?

    If your character is mean, then make him downright mean. You can always bring out any heart he may possess as you advance the story, and it is there that you may surprise yourself and your readers.

    And for the love of Christ, keep in mind this might be written by a jackass. 🙂

    Good luck.

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