Checklist For Scenes

I tell my students every day that it’s very important to get your ideas on paper first. To get your thoughts and descriptions organized, and then revise to polish your writing. Revising is more than just proofreading–looking for grammatical errors, misspelled words–it also has to do with bringing your images to life. To be descriptive enough where your readers will get lost in your story.

Here’s a checklist of story elements that should be involved in every scene. Look over this list in your editing stage.

POINT OF VIEW

  • Do you stick with only one character’s viewpoint? If you have more than one in a scene, have you assigned a scene break, so it’s not confusing for readers (if you want to enter more than one head)?
  • With narration, does it sound the way your character would speak? Or does it sound like you, the author, writing what you think he/she sounds like?
  • Have you brought the character’s personality to life through his/her narration? Using certain verbs, adjectives, etc. can convey the mood your character is in without having to say “he is sad” or “she is troubled”, for example.
  • If you use first person POV, have you stuck with first person POV? If using third person POV, have you stuck with third person POV?

DIALOGUE

  • Have you displayed what characters are saying as well as their body language?
  • Does your beats or character’s narration describe what your character is feeling (as well as having the dialogue express the emotion as well)? If so, determine which one you’d like to eliminate.
  • Does the dialogue sound realistic for your characters?

CHARACTER

  • Did you bring out your characters’ personalities by the way they narrate the events going on around them?
  • Have you given personality to your supporting characters as well as your main ones? Readers don’t know what’s going on in their head–their thoughts–unless a scene break or new chapter, but readers can still get a sense of someone in your story by the way they dress, talk, or how the narrating character perceives them.
  • Have you highlighted the characters motives for why they do what they do?

SETTING

  • Have you described the character’s surroundings? Instead of writing all at once, have you spread out the details of interior design or exterior landscape?
  • Depending on the mood your character is in, is the setting described to reveal that certain emotion?

PLOT

  • Does the scene have a beginning, middle, and ending? Do the events that happen make sense to the character?
  • Have you shown the characters’ motives for their actions?

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

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5 thoughts on “Checklist For Scenes

  1. I’m just about to start a new revision of my largest novel, and this is a very useful checklist.
    Can you just expand on what you mean by a ‘scene break’ in itself- what does that entail? I try not to jump between the main two protagonists of my novel, but, especially in the beginning chapters, I’m worried that that might be the case. How do you know if the change between POVs is too drastic, too obvious?
    One thing I worry about the most when I am writing is whether I’ve been too little or too detailed when it comes to seting out a scene and characters. It’s one thing I hope to concentrate on with the new re-write.
    Alexandrina x

    • Hey Alexandrina,
      A scene break just means using a symbol at the end of a section to indicate that the story will be entering another character’s point-of-view or it’s starting a new location in the story. Some authors like scene breaks and some authors like to just have each character have their own chapter (I personally like scene breaks).

      You know the change in POV is too drastic whenever you enter more than one character’s head at a time in one scene. You should stick with the perspective of whoever has the most to gain or lose during that scene. The other characters’ personalities can flesh out through their dialogue, their body actions, and how the main character perceives them.

      I hope that helped.

      Keep smiling,
      Yawatta

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