It’s NOT a Scene if it Doesn’t Have Conflict
Now that you know how to write a basic scene, let’s move to the overall task of plotting a novel by using scenes. The first task is to consider what scenes are possible for your story.
Let’s take the case of Cinderella. What are the possible scenes for this story?
- Cinderella’s mother & father meet
- Cinderella’s mother & father fall in love and marry
- Cinderella’s mother & father have a romantic night and she’s conceived
- Cinderella is born and her mother dies
- Father meets a new woman and woos her
- Father marries new woman.
- Stepmother and stepsisters move in.
- Stepmother and stepsisters are cruel.
- King declares a ball.
- Step-family says Cinderella can’t go.
- After they leave for the ball, Cinderella meets her fairy godmother who transforms her.
- Cinderella attends the ball and falls in love with Prince.
- Cinderella flees ball and leaves behind her shoe.
- Prince seeks woman who can wear the shoe.
- Prince finds Cinderella, they get married and live happily ever after.
Notice that I’ve left out many, many possible scenes? Partly that’s because a simple list like this isn’t sufficient; instead, you need to focus the scene list in some way.
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Use Plot Templates to Focus Scene List
Looking at the 29 possible Plot Templates, you could make a case for any of these plots:
- Quest: Cinderella seeks a better place in life and finds that she must set aside appearances to see the inner character of people.
- Rescue: From the Prince’s POV, he must rescue Cinderella from the clutches of her evil step-mother.
- Revenge: How Cinderella takes revenge on her step-family. Not often told, but it’s a possibility.
- Rivalry. Usually the step-sisters are awful and not real competition to the lovely Cinderella. But what if (and great stories are made from what ifs!) one of the step-sisters is a real rival. It’s a new twist on the story.
- Underdog. Of course, this is the classic Cinderella story.
- Love. Or is her story the classic love story?
- Ascension. Cinderella’s rise to power in the kingdom.
Each plot pattern would require a different set of scenes, emotions, motivations. Let’s take the unusual one of Rivalry, just for fun.
Cinderella as a Rivalry Plot
First, recognize the minimum required by your chosen plot template.
- Characters: Cinderella, Prince, Wonderful Step-Sister
- Girl meets boy.
- Girl recognizes her rival in her Wonderful Step-Sister (WSS)
- Girl has series of events in which she competes with WSS; a typical plot would have her fail most of these
- Girl has a final showdown with WSS for Prince’s attention; some character quality, previously dismissed as unimportant will give her the victory; OR, Girl has final showdown with WSS for Prince’s attention and loses (this would be the tragic version of the story)
- Girl gets boy
Now is when you need to start deciding on scenes and developing characters. Some of you will concentrate on character, others on events, doesn’t matter. The point is that you know the general outline.
Implications of your plot template. You could stop here and think about optional things implied by your plot template: some back story about Cinderella’s position, a fairy godmother, a step-family (cruelness is optional, as long as you explain the cinders), the presence of the father is optional, a kingdom with a prince – king and queen optional, an event where the Prince meets the girls (traditionally a ball or dance, but that’s optional), etc.
From here, it’s always a messy matter for me to develop the plot because I go back and forth between character and plot and the implied events from the plot template. But it helps to focus first on making a list of possible scenes. Given these characters and basic plot template, what scene could take place. Tomorrow, we’ll look at refining this list.