Gone are the days when I wrote scenes on the fly — without thought — letting them unfold as they came to me. Gone are the days when I thought of myself as a pantser, the type of writer who writes by the seat of my pants without planning. I’m officially a plotter. I accept that. Having some structure ensures that I’m including a particular scene because it drives the story forward and that it’s not doing a disservice to my work.
Two Types of Scenes
For my novel-in-progress, I’m alternating the two basic types of scenes: proactive (action) and reactive (reaction). A proactive scene occurs, followed by a reactive scene, then back to the proactive scene, and so on. Author and creator of the Snowflake Method, Randy Ingermanson, explains these types of scenes in his book Writing Fiction For Dummies.
Proactive scenes contain a goal, a conflict, and a setback.
- Goal: at the beginning of a scene, the point of view character has a goal that he or she wishes to achieve by the end of scene.
- Conflict: during the middle of the scene, the point of view character tries to achieve their goal, but is challenged by obstacles as the scene develops.
- Setback: at the end of the scene, the point of view character runs into a terrible problem.
Reactive scenes contain a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision.
- Reaction: at the beginning of the scene, the point of view character is recovering from the setback that occurred in the proactive scene.
- Dilemma: during the middle of the scene, the point of view character has to figure out what to do next and faces choosing between unfavorable options.
- Decision: at the end of the scene, the point of view character makes his/her decision, which establishes a goal for the follow-up proactive scene.
This method of structuring scenes has become quite helpful when I pre-write my scenes (a new plotter trait I’ve taken on). And when you break it down to its simplest form, as I’ve done above, it’s easy to create proactive and reactive scenes. Most importantly, this method of structuring scenes eliminates nonsensical rambling. Readers will surely appreciate that!