Writing Fiction: Plot Your Big Scenes First To Make Plotting Easier

If you’re writing fiction, you’ll struggle with translating the story in your head onto the page. Use scenes to make this process easier.

You may be wondering… What’s a scene?

In brief, a scene is action, which happens in real time, on the page. A scene is showing the reader, rather than telling him.

Much of your fiction, whether you’re writing a short story or a novel, is telling (narration.) However, the big events of your fiction you’ll show in real time, in scenes.

Writing fiction: use your scenes to SHOW

What do readers expect from your genre?

Think about your genre, and write a list of events readers expect. Don’t imagine that because you’ve read romance fiction since you were in high school, you know, and you can meet readers’ expectations.

Yes, you know. And you’ll forget. So make a list.

Then make a list of the big scenes.

If you’re writing a romance, for example, your big scenes might be:

  • The hero and heroine meet (the “meet cute” in romance);
  • A stumbling block to their relationship;
  • They decide they hate each other…

When you’re writing fiction, writing in scenes helps you to plot

There are ways to make plotting simple and fun. You can let your plot grow organically, if you list your big scenes before you start writing. Then work out the stepping-stone scenes you need to move from one big scene to another.

Most of my scenes in short stories and novels are around 1,500 words. Some may be just 400 words. Others, the “big” scenes, are longer.

If you know what happens in your “big” scenes, plotting is much easier.

Plot towards the big scenes in your novel

When you’re writing fiction, most of your scenes will be standard. In a mystery, your detective questions a suspect, let’s say. That’s an ordinary scene. The scene in which he tangles with the prime suspect and the suspect taunts him however, will be a big scene.

Let’s say that you have six big scenes in your novel.

You estimate that your big scenes will be 2,500 words. That’s 15,000 words out of your novel — say 20,000 words, because chances are your big scenes will run longer.

Try listing those big scenes as A, B, C, etc across a large sheet of paper or across a whiteboard. Then decide what needs to happen in the scenes which lead up to a big scene.

Similarly, after a big scene, decide what needs to happen before your next big scene.

Try it: when you’re writing fiction, plot your big scenes first

Try it yourself on your current novel. Decide on your big scenes. Then plot the scenes in between.

Writing in scenes is fun. Try it.


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