June 24, 2016

What is the point?

By Lucy Thompson

I see this repeatedly when I’m critiquing…

One or two fairly well-rounded characters wander into a scene, discuss something of mediocre importance, and then boom have something major happen to them, and then wander out of the scene.


What is the point? What is the point of that scene? Why is character A there? What is his/her motivation? His goal? What is the conflict that flows naturally from the differences between that goal and motivation?

A question I commonly ask is:

What is the point of this scene?

All scenes have a reason for being there. All characters have a reason for stepping into the scene.

From Randy Ingermanson’s book, How to write a novel using the Snowflake method I learned that a scene is either Proactive orReactive.
(Go buy that book. Seriously. It’s so helpful and easy to understand!)

1. Goal
      2. Conflict
     3. Setback
     1. Reaction
      2. Dilemma
     3. Decision


We’ve got our characters, now what do they want? What is the goal of this scene? What does your character wantto happen at the opening of that chapter or scene? Should start out with at least a hint of what that goal is.

Conflict…What conflict happens to upset that goal? I mentioned motivation earlier. All characters—and people—are motivated by something. It could be freedom like in Braveheart, it could be survival like in Gone With the Wind. What motivation is driving your character to achieve that goal? In other words, why did they step into that scene? How does this escalate? How does this complicate the story? How does the lead to the third part of a proactive scene?

…What is the setback to that goal? At the end of the scene did the character achieve their original goal; did they not achieve their goal, or change their goal? If there’s no change you might need to rethink your scene and possibly rewrite it.

Moving along to REACTIVE SCENES. Reactive scenes follow on/happen after a reactive scene.

Your character first has a reaction to the setback that happened in the previous proactive scene.

Out of that reaction he/she/it then faces a dilemma. Tip: ask yourself what’s the worst thing that could happen?

Then out of that dilemma, the character makes a decision.

That decision then funnels into the next scene (which would be a proactive scene seeing as the character has a fresh new goal). Rinse and repeat.

I hope this helps. It’s a common issue I see with beginner manuscripts. There is so much promise hidden under layers of aimless chapters.

So, go dig your story out. Give it some purpose, a.k.a a point! And make it shine
Lucy Thompson is a stay-at-home mum to five precocious children by day and a snoop by night, stalking interesting characters through historical settings, and writing about their exploits. She enjoys meeting new people from all over the world and learning about the craft of writing. When she can be separated from her laptop, she is a professional time waster on Facebook, a slave to the towering stack of books on her bedside table, and a bottler, preserving fruit the old fashioned way so she can swap recipes and tips with her characters. Her home is in central Queensland, Australia where she does not ride a kangaroo to the shops, mainly because her children won't fit. Represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, she is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, and Romance Writers of America. Her Blog:

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