Foundation  Building a strong structure

I’m working on the next step of my MyNoWriMo plan, which is to sketch out the scenes in my story. I’m using a format for the information I put into each scene sketch based on the one from Janice Hardy’s blog, with modifications.  Here’s what I give for each scene, with all but the last being no more than a sentence or two:

  • Descriptive name (just a few words)
  • Goal (what the main character wants to get out of the scene)
  • Internal conflict (why things are emotionally hard for the main character)
  • External complication (why this will be outwardly hard to accomplish)
  • Stakes (why the goal is important, what it will cost if it’s not achieved)
  • Disaster (what happens at the end with respect to the goal)
  • Summary (this can be one or more paragraphs with the action, dialogue, and anything else that I think of that should go into this scene)

There are a few differences from Janice Hardy’s plan:

  • I’m leaving out the POV character, since my story is 1st person with one narrator, so that’s the same in every scene.
  • Her system ends with a climax, but I’m substituting a term from Jack Bickham’s book Scene and Structure: a disaster. Every scene (except the last one) ends in one of three ways: a simple No (the goal was not achieved), Yes, but (the goal was achieved, but at the cost of making things worse overall), or No, and furthermore (the goal was not achieved, and the attempt made things worse). Keeping this in mind makes me focus on my goal and on ratcheting up the tension as the story moves forward.
  • Janice Hardy’s system offers a paragraph summary of the scene as an alternative to the list of high points, but I’m including them both in my system. I want to have a place to summarize the action and dialogue, but also to throw in anything else as I work out my plan. If I’m working on one scene and realize I need to foreshadow something in an earlier scene, I can go back and make a note of this in the earlier scene. If I think of a juicy bit of description or a joke to relieve the tension, in it goes. This way I don’t forget anything later on when writing.

I’ve got a file with each scene starting on a new page.  For my first pass I’m just filling in the bullet list, not the summary, but once the bullets are done I’ll transfer the information from the chapter summaries to each scene summary and begin fleshing them out. I should be on track to finish by my deadline of May 3. So far, so good!

1 thought on “Foundations

  1. Pingback: Chain Gang | Word Wacker

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