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

Book or Series? Novel or Short Story?

Depending on how much you invest in your characters, you could write one book or a series of books about them.  Back in the day, I brought every Babysitter’s Club book; each one brought me closer to the girls.  Don’t even get me started on  how excited I was when a movie came out.

There’s been a trend where authors write series based on the same characters.  For example, the Jack Reacher set, the Vampire Diaries set, the Pretty Little Liars set, the Harry Dresden set, so on and so on.

This is something you should think about.  With your story idea and group of characters–do you want one story or do you think you could write more than one?

It doesn’t have to be answered right away, but it’s something to consider as you write.  It’ll help you decide if the ending to your story will give closure to the reader or end in a cliffhanger.  Naturally, it’ll end with closure if you only have one book to tell.  It’d end in a cliffhanger if you want to write a series of books; you’d want to motivate your readers to buy the next novel or short story.

Another thing you should ask yourself is if you want your piece of fiction to be written as a novel or short story.  The decision can come to you when you begin writing the pages.

I’ll give you a tip on how I approach this question:

  • I’m a huge couch potato, so I always think in terms of would my characters fit in a movie or a TV show.  If the plot fits in a movie, I’ll write a short story; everything can be told quickly and straight to the point.
  • If the plot could fit in a TV show, then I write a novel.  There’s a backstory that needs explained, there’s events in the present, but I have to reveal the future or explain the past.  If divided in Parts (like Part One, Part Two, etc.), each part ends in a cliffhanger and has a different story to tell.  Each part is considered how a season would air on a TV show.
  • If this approach interests you, then use it.  If not, you’ll figure out the best way for you to handle it.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby