Chain Gang

Chain  Only as strong as…. You know the rest.

As I work on sketching out the scenes for my novel, I’m trying to apply a universal piece of wisdom that I’ve seen in many places but which hit home to me when I read Lisa Cron’s book, Wired for Story. In a story, each step of what happens needs to leads inexorably (but surprisingly) to the next step. It’s not a series of things that happen one after the other: I talked to my friend. I went for ice cream. It’s a series of things where one causes the next one to happen: I talked to my friend and learned something distressing, so I went for some serious ice cream to make myself feel better. As I draft my scenes, I keep asking myself, “How does what happens in this scene set up the next scene?” I’m building a chain, and I need to make sure there are no broken links.

Here’s the system I’m using to make this happen. I’ve got a page for each scene (as I discussed in my last post). I’ve also set up a separate page for the “scene chain.” It’s a bulleted list, with each scene described very briefly (no more than one line per scene). The bullet I use for this list is the three-dot “therefore” symbol you may remember from geometry class. So the list is saying “This happens, therefore this happens, therefore this happens…”. As I build this list, I hear that word over and over in my head, focusing me on these links. I hope this structure keeps me well connected!

Oh, and progress: I’m 75% through the first pass at sketching my scenes. I should finish that first pass in a couple of days, and then I can go back and polish the rough edges (tighten up that chain!) and put together a one-paragraph summary of the action in each scene. I have two more weeks. It should work!

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