Monday, November 21, 2011

8 Pre-Scene Writing Questions

I've been finding that once I force myself to write a scene, even if it doesn't flow very well, I often realize that the scene could have been much better if I'd written some aspect of it differently. Instead of getting it "right" (or closer to right) the first time, I then know that I'll have to go back and fix it in a revision. I've been wondering if there are questions I could ask myself before starting a scene that would make that scene's first incarnation stronger than it would otherwise be. Here are some of the ideas I've had:
  1. Going into this scene, what does each character want, both in the book as a whole and, more importantly, from this interaction in particular?
  2. What does each character know or think they know?
  3. What is each character afraid of?
  4. (Related) What is each character trying to conceal?
  5. What is the setting?
  6. What aspects of the setting reflect the POV character's mood?
  7. What aspects of the setting is the POV character likely to notice and be affected by?
  8. (Per Mary Robinette Kowal's excellent suggestion on Writing Excuses) Which of Orson Scott Card's M. I. C. E. elements (milieu, idea, character, event) most defines this interaction? How does that influence where the scene stops and starts?

Just brainstorming these ideas has given a bit more structure to both the scene I just wrote and the scene I'm about to write. I think this idea has promise. What other questions would it be productive to ask?

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