This past weekend, I attended a workshop that was given by writer Roxanne St. Claire. This workshop covered scene revision and pace. First let me say that, if you have the chance to attend one of Roxanne’s workshops, GO! She’s brilliant and funny and she says things about hospital corners you’ll never forget.
I learned a thousand things at this workshop but will be covering only one today and that is this:
Every scene in your novel needs to have three things: a goal, a conflict and a change.
Sound familiar? Why yes, Ms. Bodger, that sounds a bit like a logline to me! Now Roxanne did not suggest we write loglines for each of our scenes. She suggested we make sure we have a goal, conflict and change, but because I LOVE loglines so much, I decided to try to write one for each scene of my WIP. To do that, I first had to make obvious breaks in my scenes (I usually separate them by spaces or chapter breaks but I decided it would be easier to use chapter breaks for all of them for now). Once that was done. I highlighted the scene/chapter number and added a revision note that gave the time & date (I always do this) as well as the character’s goal, conflict and change (or result).
Here’s an example of one I wrote for the second scene in my WIP:
The deal is off if Emma doesn’t get Rachel’s coffee to her before 7 am, but when Emma gets to Starbucks, she realizes that she can’t remember the order and forgot her money. Matteo, the Starbucks cashier, is sick of bratty rich kids who annoy him and so when Emma offers to pay after she brings the coffee to Rachel, Matteo refuses. In the end, Emma gets the coffee but only because the other barista gives it to her.
As far as loglines go, this isn’t great. It doesn’t cover much about the characters since we already know them by this point and it gives away the outcome which you also don’t usually do. But despite this, it does what it needs to do for my revision. It establishes Emma’s goal, her obstacles and the outcome.
Now, you’re probably looking at this and thinking this is a lot of work. You’re right. I have 42 scenes in my WIP and it took several hours (and that was just to write them, not to fix them!) However, in doing this exercise, I was able to identify all of the scenes in my WIP that were lacking a purpose (goal) or real tension (obstacles). For example, in the one above, before I did this, I still knew what I wanted the scene to do but I didn’t know how to make it do it BETTER until I’d identified the real conflict.
If you’re still not sure this will help you, try it for only a few scenes. Maybe the ones that seem too short or maybe the ones that seem to drag. Even if it doesn’t result in any changes, it’s a great way to keep track of what’s happening in your scenes.