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Shawn Coyne’s Advice on How to Write a Scene

by on Mar.11, 2016, under Writing Craft


It’s worth noting that Coyne in his book, The Story Grid, lets us off the hook of understanding the WHOLE topic of Genre with a simple statement: If you take away nothing else from this book, learn how to write a scene.

So here’s what he suggests as the recipe for a dramatic scene (paraphrased and diddled with by me).

Inciting incident — something throws the protagonist’s world out of whack
Progressive complications — as the protagonist tries to fix it, more obstacles appear
Crisis — Should hero go forward, or go home?
Climax — Protagonist makes a decision. Reader should be surprised and satisfied, feel some catharsis or change of worldview. The climax should fit with the earlier parts of the scene.
Resolution (turn) — Who won, who lost, can protagonist go back to how things were? If the answer is yes, it’s relatively boring. If the hero must go forward, your story becomes about life or death.

The Resolution is called a ‘turn’ because every scene is about CHANGE. If nothing changes, what you have is a pile of words. Your scene must have conflict. Someone must win or lose. Hero’s outlook on the world (or the world itself) must change by the end of the scene.

Learn to identify the five components of scene in everything you read. Watch what the turn of the scene FEELS like.

Work to create the inciting incidents that convey the most meaning and rocket fuel for the story you want to tell.

If you can write one good scene after another, you’ve got a book.

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