14 Crucial things you need in every scene (advanced fiction writing tips & novel revision checklist)
It can be tricky to self-edit a scene to make sure it’s working, so here’s a handy revision checklist for editing your novels, with 14 things to focus on or check. Each of these are useful tricks to improve a slow or plodding scene that you like but just isn’t dramatic enough to keep momentum. Watch the video for a full-walkthrough!
- What happens
- Motivation (what do the characters need/want and why). The most pressing thing replaces the big thing
- What’s stopping them? Opposition: 3 hurdles/obstacles.
- Reaction, synthesis, action
- Change or Reveal (action or new info)
- Pause for effect
- End scene with unresolved conflict (cliffhanger)
- Promise of the premise
- Real stakes vs fake stakes
- 3x conflict (light the fuse – two irresolvable opposites that create friction
- Tension (pull the string) unresolved story questions or red herrings
- Snapshot (picture it)
- Momentum (urgency) – why does this have to happen NOW
- Relevancy: does this matter to the REAL story conflict or quest?
Things to flag or check
- “Can’t picture this” – vivid scene/add scene description
- Description comes in first instance
- “nothing is happening” – add conflict, tension or change
- conflict doesn’t matter if readers don’t know or care about characters
- confused readers quit
- “Break up dialogue” add movement and action
- “confusing transitions” how did they get there, why did they go there
- “Boring” – characters aren’t facing immediate threat
- Fake stakes
- What’s opposing her
- What’s she/he wearing
- Repetition (overused words, repeating information readers already know)
- Consistency/continuity (objects, clothing, hair color etc).