Lesson 12



So that’s it. That’s how you write a killer scene. It’s not rocket science. It’s pretty straightforward, but it takes a lot of practice, lifelong practice, to get good at it. And I think that’s what I love about writing. Writing at its core—it’s simple, but it’s not easy. It takes a lot of practice.

Let’s summarize what we talked about in How to Write a Scene. Here’s what you’ve learned. You’ve learned that you have to go through a series of Socratic questions to get at the essence of your scene to make sure it works. And you can do this whether you pants or plot. It doesn’t matter.

So here’s what you’ve learned. You need to identify in three sentences or less what’s happening in the scene. You have to ask, “Why is this scene important?” Why does the main character, or what does the main character want? External pursuits. What does the main character need? Internal desires. What does the antagonist or force of antagonism want? External pursuits. What does the antagonist or force of antagonism need? Internal desires. And what’s wrong with the protagonist’s personal world, or what is the disruption?

And once you’ve answered those questions, you have to work really hard to identify the three Cs of the Three Story Method. That is the conflict, which is, as Aristotle would say, the beginning. The choice, which would be the middle. And the end, which would be the consequence.

Remember we talked about that storytelling at its core is quite simple. Aristotle nailed it. A story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You don’t need to make it any more complicated than that. You have to make sure that there’s something wrong in the world of the protagonist, something that is an obstacle. If there isn’t an obstacle, you run the risk of writing shoe leather scenes, which are not interesting. Again, the choice is absolutely critical to a good scene. Make sure it’s only one major choice. If you have more than one choice, you probably have multiple scenes. This method will work for you if you’re a pantser, because you can write your scene and then look at it afterwards. It will work for you as a plotter where you can map these out and then start writing.

But the bottom line is scene work is absolutely crucial to becoming a good writer, because if you can’t write a good scene, nothing else matters. You can write individual scenes, a great way is to practice short stories. Write short stories, analyze them in this way, plan in this way, and you will definitely become a better writer. So hopefully that was helpful. Now it’s time for you to go out and write your killer scene.