SCENE 30: Scene Checklist

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10 Checkpoints for a Scene

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30 Days to a Stronger Scene Table of Contents

Does your Scene Pass this Checklist?

We’ll wrap up this 30-day series on scenes with a checklist.

  1. Where/When. (Setting) Did you orient the reader at the beginning of the scene? Does the reader know where this takes place: room in house, city, state, country, etc? Does the reader know when this takes place: time of day, season of year, place within chronology of story? If the answer to where or when is no, do you have a firm reason for leaving the reader disoriented?
  2. Do NOT Pass Go Until You've Passed this Check List

    Do NOT Pass Go Until You've Passed this Check List

  3. Stakes. Are the stakes of the scene goal clear? If the protagonist fails, do we understand the consequences? Are the consequences substantial? Can you put more at stake, or make it matter in some way?
  4. Structure. Is the structure clear, with a beginning, middle, pivot point and ending? Is the chronology of the scene clear (did you use transitions such as then, later, before, after, etc.)?
  5. Actions. Are the actions of the scene interesting, and told with active verbs and great clarity?
  6. Emotions. Are the emotions clearly stated or implied? Can the reader empathize with the characters? Does the reader weep or laugh, even when the character can’t or won’t?
  7. Dialogue. Does the dialogue move the scene forward or is it empty chit-chat? Are there minor conflicts embedded in the conversations?
  8. Language. Are you telling or showing? Does your storytelling have clarity and coherence?
  9. Voice. Does the language create the proper mood, tone, voice?
  10. Transition. Does the scene make a smooth transition to the next scene? If you use a scene cut, does the reader have enough information to follow the cut without getting confused?
  11. Cohesive. Do all the elements work together to create a gestalt, a scene that is better than the sum of its parts?

Where does your scene fall down? Revise. You know the drill.

2 Comments
  • Ann Finkelstein
    November 30, 2010

    Great summation!

  • Melissa Shaw-Smith
    November 30, 2010

    Thanks for the month of excellent advice! Your final check list will be taped to the inside of my eyelids.