Bones to Muscle: Fleshing Out Scenes

by Melissa Borg
October 8, 2012

This weekend I promised I would stop saying that I'm going to get some work done on my manuscript and do it. So with five hours invested thus far, there are 15 pages tweaked. My first pass through was to edit and find the natural scene break.

For me, a scene break is when I can tell the motivation or conflict has changed for the main character. I mark it and then ask a few questions about what happened in the scene:

1. Each scene should provide your character with:

  •  A plot situation or new information the character must react to.
  • A catalyst or antagonist with whom the protagonist interacts.

2. Motivated by:

  • the protagonist's intention for the scene.
  • the protagonist's history.

3. Each situation or interaction should make your plot and its consequences either:

  • More complicated.
  • Less complicated.

4. Through these complications, your protagonist should change. They can change beliefs, behaviors, attitudes, allegiances or loyalties, appearances or motivations. So what changed for them?

5. What are the most immediate desires of the character?

6. When will your character achieve their intentions or will they meet with opposition?

7. Does the scene's intentions make sense to your plot?

8. Who will help your characters achieve their goals?

(Most of the questions come from the book Make A Scene.)

After I answer these questions I go back and make sure that everything I wrote down in clear in the scene. I add and delete text based on my answers.

This helps me to clarify and tighten up each scene so that they flow with a purpose. It takes a long time to do so but in the end since I know what the characters conflict and motivation are I get to know them better because of their reactions to life.

Before I started writing seriously, I didn't think that I would care to go through and do the edits but now I look forward to it. I love once I'm done with my first draft it's like a rough pencil sketch and each time I go back through it I flesh it out a little more, till the characters are living and breathing for all who read about their adventures.

Do you have a checklist of questions you ask as you go back through your work? What for you is the most important part of the second draft? Do you believe you can have a scene without conflict in it?

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