Recently I crossed a threshold in my understanding of how scenes work, an understanding of scene underpinnings. After hundreds of hours, I’ve figured this out so deeply that I can, while watching a show or a movie, in real-time see the building blocks of these scenes on the fly. This is a superpower, since every scene I consume, I gain associations for scenes in my own story.

Bolded are the core question I’m able to ask on the fly (for each character in the scene). I included “Going Deeper” as that’s the next threshold to triumphant, being able to answer those questions on the fly.

  • What do they want in this scene? (Going deeper: how is what they want a stepping stone towards their overarching purpose?)
  • What is the first truly unexpected thing? What is the first thing they must choose how they will respond to?
  • How did they choose to respond? (Deeper: in what way is that choice meaningful? Who they wish to be verse who they need to be? How it aligned with their overarching yearnings, both internally and externally?)
  • What are the consequences of this choice? What relationships have changed or how has this character’s world changed? (These are the consequences within the scene. Also we can figure out the consequences in the overall scheme of the story… Deeper: how has this scene affected their overarching purpose? Because of the consequences, how has the pursuit of their goal changed? Have their possibilities in pursuit of their goal shrunken or grown?)
  • What did they learn from this scene? (Deeper: why does what they learned matter internally?)
  • What will they do now? (Deeper: what new direction did do they now believe is best in pursuit of their goal?)

Okay, too many questions, not enough examples. Future Post: I’ll break down one of my favorite scenes from Game of Thrones.

To Note: this list will be ever-updating for me. This is my first draft, expect a second.

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Original ideas: I credit Lisa Cron’s Story Genius for the foundation of these questions. She, in that book, presents the idea of a story scene card. It is truly genius. The whole book is.