Effortlessly Build Your Scenes with This Writing Hack

Effortlessly Build Your Scenes with This Writing Hack

Shout-out to @ThomHarp for this writing hack, which lets you effortlessly build your scenes whether you’re writing a novel, a short story, or a movie screenplay. Like many of you, I’m on the lookout for any tool or hack that simplifies the process of writing. That’s why I found this little trick to be a brilliantly clever way to connect your story diagram to ‘what is actually happening in this scene.’ Here’s how it works.

Step One: Diagram your story out, end to end using the aforementioned Story Diagram technique. If you’ve never diagrammed a full novel before, the easy way to figure out how it works is to watch your favorite movie and diagram that. Diagramming forces you to think about all the story plots (usually 2-4 in any good movie) in a linear structure. Once you’ve done that, go back to your story and then start blocking it out the same way. Where do you start, where do you end up? Start from each end and work inward. 

Step Two: After you’ve got your story diagram down, start breaking your story into scenes using the writing hack we’ll now discuss. You can use a fancy writing app (looking at you, Scrivener) or you can use Post-it Notes. It really doesn’t matter. Write down on each piece of paper like so:






And, looking in your story diagram, start filling out the details! Tell us what the summary of your scene is to start, so you know how much information to put into this scene. Tell a little bit about Where We’ve Been to help fit the scene in the overall continuity of your story. Write down what this scene is about to help your story focus on key elements. Document any power moves, anything a protagonist, side character, antagonist, or innocent bystander might do to make the reader go ‘Wow.’ Finally, write down your character goals; how does this scene help your character grow and change?

It’s important to remember one thing: you don’t have to do any of this to be a writer. Some writers love the process of creativity, writing by the seat of your pants, seeing where the story takes you. That’s wonderful, and I use that process when I’m writing short stories. What I’ve learned about longer projects like novels is this – Chapter Twenty-One is a heck of a time to figure out you have a plot hole in Chapter Two. By enacting some structure and focus to the story, you eliminate a lot of revisions, re-writes, and hassle. If you have a better way to do it, or another hack to share, feel free to drop me a line!

At the end of the day, writing is a craft and I want to be good at it. I share what I learn out of respect and gratitude toward those who were kind enough to share with me. I dropped this writing hack into my Free Author Tools page. If you want more info, you can also check this NoFilmSchool blog post for more ideas.

Write on!