Form with questions for writing a scene

Help request: I’m hunting around online for a basic form with the questions you can answer before writing a scene (or when editing it), and the versions I’m finding are too advanced. I’m thinking of a very basic form, with, for instance

  • Who is in this scene?
  • What age are they?
  • What year is this?
  • What season is it?
    and so on, so that the writer can abandon “telling” and use these data to “show” - eg, it’s spring, so are there cowslips, if we’re in a country lane, or is the milkman’s horse trotting rather than trudging if we’re in town…

This is the kind of situation when I like creating a new, blank Scrivener project and then building my own template documents in it. That way, I can save it as a customized template and re-use it for future projects.

I can also revise my sheets as I go if needed.

For creating a new document template, §7.5 of the Scrivener manual has tips. For creating a project template, §5.4.3 would be helpful to review.

If you’re really looking for something ready-made but the ones you’ve seen are too advanced, can you copy out only the information that’s useful to you and use it?

I think the folks at ScribeForge.ink have some different world- and character-building tools, and they might even have a version that’s a Scrivener project template you can purchase.

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The other thing to do is search internet or Pinterest for scene questions. Ton for free. Copy and paste into blank template and customize and modify going forward. I have a ton and constantly change them as I go.

I’ve done that, but the questions are far more technical - too advanced for the person I want them for. I’m looking for simple stuff:

Who’s in this scene?
What ages are they?
How are they dressed?
What season is it?
What month?
What time of day?
Where does it happen?

and so on - with the idea that knowing this means knowing, for instance what kind of weather it is - are they walking in a light mizzle of rain, are they ankle deep in grass and cowslips - or is it autumn and there are chantarelles growing under the pine trees… are these rich people with new clothes, or are their clothes very respectable but carefully, invisibly mended…

Make a new file inside the template folder call it scene questions. Type in those you listed now and have a simple template. If want more duplicate file ( a right click option) and call advanced scene options and your done.

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I think the most important and fundamental questions for considering a scene are questions like:

Which character drives the scene with their desire?
What does that main character want?
Why do they want it?
What is the cost to them if they don’t get what they want?
How does the situation or the environment make it harder for them to achieve their goal?
What other characters in the scene oppose the character’s desire?
Why do they oppose the main character?
What is the cost to them of allowing the main character to succeed?
How does the main character oppose themselves? What doubts or inner conflicts make it harder for them to pursue what they want or to take the steps to get it?
By the end of the scene, does the main character get what they want?
How does the end of this scene propel the reader into the next scene?

Scenes are much easier to write when they are propelled by the intense desires of a character. When a character meets an obstacle to their desires, how they react and how/if they take steps to overcome it tells everything about who they are.

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These are good; not necessarily apposite in the case I’m seeking questions for, as it’s non-fiction and the main character is often an observer, as a child, of adult lives.
The questions I seek, really, are show-don’t-tell questions - making it possible to write in a way that shows what’s happening rather than narrating it.

Doesn’t matter who’s the observer / narrator (might by unreliable or opinionated) – unless you intend to write a travel guide (a rather boring one) it’s essential to understand, primarily for you as the writer, who the people in a scene are and what drives them and why they react to the environment in a certain way. There’s at least one person in that scene (the observer).

Everything else is padding and nice to have for continuity and stuff. The audience doesn’t really care (or even notice) if the person who’s struck by the car wears a blue shirt and then suddenly wears a yellow shirt in hospital. Maybe if you write crime. Observing through the the eyes of a child is even more liberating. Nobody expects a child to get it right.

Take any non-fiction that reads like a thriller and compare it to any fiction that reads like a manual.

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These are all good ways to look at things.

But I also would recommend looking at Story Grid. The original book by Big 5 Editor Shawn Coyne was written in 2015, and he’s actually got even smarter since then, so their website elaborates further on this (and clears up a couple original discrepancies).

So what is most important in every scene are 5 elements: 1) an inciting incident (something throws the protag’s immediate world out of balance), 2) a turning point (they realize they must do something to deal with that), 3) a crisis question (what will they do?), 4) a climax (the action they take), and 5) resolution (a brief assessment of how their immediate world has changed based on their action, and how to go forward from there).

Every scene needs 2, 3, and 4 directly inside it, and must be driven by 1 (although the inciting incident might be in a previous scene). Resolution should also be in the scene, but might come a slight bit later.

There also must be a decision leading to the climax of the scene. What is interesting is that the turning point, crisis question, and decision don’t always have to be directly on the page, but they must still exist in the mind of the protagonist (and therefore, the reader). But they are often only implied. Once you see the climax, you can often easily guess what the turning point, crisis question, and decision likely were.

There can also be ‘progressive complications’, that intensify the drama and push the protag to their turning point, but those are not absolutely required like the other 5 are.

The protag also needs an object of desire in every scene. As Aaron Sorkin puts it, ‘Somebody wants something, something stands in their way—intention and obstacle’.

And it’s good to know what the global genre you are writing in is, and to understand what the conventions of that genre are, and serve those with obligatory moments (in any particular genre, the reader expects certain things, and this serves those expectations, without which, the story will seem incomplete to them).

Mm. This is for a lady who’s writing a memoir of growing up in the 1940s.