Step 1 – The first eight questions

Our sample scene is the opening scene in my story.  That will affect some of the answers, but for the most part, it should all still apply.  Let’s jump in:

What is the primary piece of story exposition in this scene?

Mirian’s sacrifice, it’s excessiveness, and her zeal for her religion.

Does that information move the story forward, or is it a side trip?

Yes.  It is introducing Mirian, and establishing a baseline for her character’s starting point

Does the new info require any foreshadowing or setup from prior scenes?

No.  There are no prior scenes.

Does the scene open with something clever, poignant, surprising, or interesting?

Well, sort of.  It could be a lot better though.

What is the precise moment – in action, dialog, or other narrative context – at which the scene’s payoff will be exposed?

Knife through the hand, baby!

What is the latest  moment you can enter the scene without compromising the info or the potential for dramatic experience in the delivery?

Right before the stabbing.  There needs to be some lead in to show what is happening, but really anything not related to getting stabbed probably doesn’t need to be in place before it happens.

Does the scene have it’s own tension, stakes, and flow?

Um, well…  I’m not exactly sure.  I think it sort of does, but it needs more drama building up to “the event”.

What is the reader experiencing — feeling, understanding, clarifying, or other emotion — as the scene unfolds?

Shock at the stabbing.  Understanding Mirian’s intensity of devotion.

– – – – –

That is where we will leave it for tonight.  Next installment will answer the last six questions.  After that, we will begin walking through the first draft and marking up the text to make it better.





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6 responses to “Step 1 – The first eight questions

  1. This is the stuff I can’t really do. I don’t have the nerve or the capability to break up my own writing like this. So, I kinda edit by ear 🙂
    Congrats for being able to do it!

    • Hi, Stef!

      It kind of comes with what I do for my day job. It has really been an educational, if not somewhat paralyzing, process. I find my self sometimes questioning whether a scene should even exist (like the walk from her room with Larinn. That has been completely removed). Ultimately though, I think it will be a good thing, as it makes me justify everything in the story. If it has no purpose in telling the story, why should any of my readers care about it?

      Thanks for stopping by!


  2. Nice process! I might apply it at editing time…

    Does the “open with something clever” mean a better hook at the beginning? You could try a few alternate hooks and see what works best. Maybe have a poll 🙂

    More tension…hmmm…maybe Vaktril could start warning Mirian, “Don’t do it!”, then she picks up the knife and he says, “I mean it–don’t you do it this time!” And then we’re left to wonder–what’s she gonna do?

  3. Pingback: The rest of the questions… | J Andrew Jansen

  4. Pingback: Next pass: Efficiency and effect | J Andrew Jansen

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