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Scene Test! Creating great scenes in your novel...

Updated: Mar 21, 2022

Many techniques are used when it comes to writing engaging, grab-you-by-the-seat-of-your-pants scenes in novels and I've studied many of them. I work constantly to try and hold my own in this arena in my novels. There are many methods for sure, and below I've paraphrased and described a few. Again, these aren't my words specifically, but many culled from various great sources of tutelage and pedagogy over the years.

List for all Scenes:

1. What is purpose of scene?

2. What does main character want in the scene?

3. Must be grounded in something real and true about the human condition.

4. Must advance the story in some measurable way.

5. Elicit emotion

6. Drop Clue

7. Conflict

8. Rewards & Punishments

(Each chapter based on protagonist’s following of the truth or his misconceived lie.)

Scene Test:

1. Meeting - two forces involved w/the conflict must clash

2. Purpose

3. Encounter - possible elements: attempts to interrogate or seek information, or convey information, or overcome by logic or argument, or convince, or persuade, or influence, or impress, or compel

4. Final Action - Win, lose, or quit

5. Sequel or Aftermath - (a. state of affairs, b. state of mind) - which leads into your next scene

For suspense:

1. put characters in jeopardy

2. include more promises and less action.

3. keep every promise you make.

4. let the characters tell readers their plans.

5. cut down on the violence.

6. be one step ahead of your readers. - describe climax setting before end of story in advance - as you build to climax isolate main character - make it personal

Profound journeys

-realization of others

-self-realization - remorse

-taking action based on realization

-internal conflict, psychological effects - neuroses (paranoia etc)

-morality of actions




Surface journey

-positive or negative








In my work I utilize Scrivener which is a robust tool. I keep the above on the right in my "Notes" tab for every chapter/scene and can review at any time to remind myself of the fundamentals of crafting a good scene.

Below all this I have what I entitle "Scene Anatomy," and there I either use numbers or hashmarks/hyphens beside events that I map out for each scene, what happens, which characters, action, etc. I find this helpful during the process. Sometimes I map them out totally in advance, other times as I go along, but the rudimentary aspects I usually do in advance.

Happy Scene Writing!

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