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Sunday, March 10, 2019

Scene Structure

Scene structure

I was asked in my critique group by a new-to-romance writer how my scene advanced the plot.

I said, (remember we always feel constrained by time, or at least I do) that I was showing the hero and heroine’s relationship developing, changing.

Afterwards I wondered if that was enough. Remember the book on writing by Debra Dixon, Goal, Motivation & Conflict?

I asked myself what was the goal of the scene.

Goal: To show the hero’s reaching out to understand and enjoy the heroine’s hobby (writing songs, poems or rap).

Motivation: She wants to teach him. He wants to learn, because he was falling in love and had an insatiable appetite for knowledge.

Conflict: A poetry store clerk flirts with the hero which bothers the heroine.

This should be enough, right?

Well, the next scene has an outside irritant introduced. This was my remedy after I thought about how to please my critique group friend. Before her comment, I wasn’t quite sure how to handle the next scene which I labeled meet the FBI agent. So, from trying to justify my little scene about a growing love came the solidification of how the next one should go.

I really appreciate every critique I get, even if seemingly off the mark. Because it often becomes a catalyst to crystalize something in my story.


1.     At least one goal or purpose.

2.    Advance the plot.

3.    Be essential to the story.

4.    Advance or diminish the romance. It is important to include ups and downs and a black moment where they walk away from each other and the reader screams at her book. NO.

5.    Show motivation(s).

6.    Show conflict.

My friend, Ann Siracusa, reminded me to add the following to the list of what each scene should have:
1. Have a beginning, middle and end.
2. Each character should have an agenda.
3. Don't forget the hook at the end of the scene.

Off topic: Last week I was listening to an NPR interview with Benjamin Dreyer, Copy Chief of Random House. His book may surprise you, Dreyer’s English, 2019. He covers grammar and style. He writes about when it is okay to split an infinitive, end a sentence with a preposition, start a sentence with and,& but (but not together). Etc. Want a fresh take on those nasty rules we constantly forget? This book is for you.

1 comment:

  1. One thing more I would say about scenes: Each has a beginning, middle, and end (just like the novel) and the end of the scene needs a hook. Each character has an agenda for the scene, and each has a goal which is or is not achieved. Usually when one is writing the scene, it's hard (maybe impossible) to think of all these points you mentioned. But in editing, each of them should be checked. The worse thing is when I put some space between writing the scene and doing the checking, some of the time I can't remember what the goal of each of the characters was. Oh, dear. Sometimes the scene doesn't need to be there. Can you imagine that! If I can't see why the scene is there (and as the author I'm supposed to know) then the reader certainly won't see it either.