I found myself applying every lesson to the world around me: How to observe other people and appreciate every difference, from appearance to language to gestures. How to use one small, telling detail to figure out what makes them tick. Why people’s greatest weaknesses are often also their greatest strengths. What could I figure out about myself by applying the same powers of observation?
So that when you all — Joylene’s faithful readers — asked me on Monday to divulge the template I use to create and test each scene I write, I decided to do so, though with this recommendation:
Step outside the role of a writer who might only see the following as a writer’s tool. Instead, view the list as a “seeing” checklist, one that will help you better observe the world around you.
Again, this template is very particular to my needs and a work in progress devised from the advice of writers far greater than myself. As you read, think about how you look at the world. What do you notice and why? If you, right now, look around you, what does this template help you see and understand?
Better yet, take the list to a coffee house, courtroom, therapy group or some other peopled place of drama. Now what do you see?
Martha’s Scene (Seeing) Template
— What’s happening?
— People present
— Why is this happening?
— Why is it happening at this point in time?
Structure of scene
— Who’s the focus (main character)?
— From who’s point-of-view is the scene occurring?
— What’s the goal of the main character in the scene?
— What action (emotional exchange) takes place?
— What’s the concrete problem or conflict?
— How does that problem change the character? Does he/she meet his goal?
— What’s the underlying problem that led to this moment?
— What new problem has been created? (What makes you want to keep watching/reading)?
— What does each character want?
— Do those desires conflict? They should.
— Who has the power?
— What’s the obstacle?
— In what position does the obstacle place characters?
— Do you sense neither will give up?
— Does the obstacle increase in size?
— Does the obstacle create suspense long-term?
— Does the obstacle create tension short-term)?
— What resolution will readers long for?
— Will readers have to wait?
Sources of tension (use at least one)
— a chilling fact
— dangerous work
— imminent deadline
— unfortunate meeting
— good guy trapped
— physical landscape
— all five senses
— placement of characters
— appearance/dress of each character
If anybody is willing to test this checklist by Friday, either in his/her writing or in a real life moment, I’d love to hear the outcome!
Lastly, I’m looking for book clubs willing to test market my novel, THE WIND THIEF. I’m even willing to provide a free book to each group. If you’re interested, let me know (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll send a list of simple instructions.
* If you have any questions for Martha, post them under comments, and I'm sure Martha will have an answer for you soon.