Discover Scene Tracking Contributions to Story

Critical Contributions to Story

Last week’s post covered essential scene beats. Today, discover scene tracking contributions to story, helping you stay on track to deliver the promise of your premise.

What Is Scene Tracking?

In its simplest form, scene tracking records essential beats and elements in a table, enabling writers to see the story’s flow and evaluate what needs improvement.

Writers accomplish this amazing feat by using an off-the-shelf app like Scrivener, or using a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel, Numbers or Google). Scene tracking use varies based on each writer’s preference.

  • Pantsers can track scenes after they write.
  • Plotters can use scene tracking to create detailed outlines.
  • All writers can use tracking to make sure each scene does its job.

Benefits of Scene Tracking

The essential benefits include insights to delete unneeded scenes and beef up lackluster scenes.

  • Delete Weak Scenes: If you wrestle with filling out the tracking information, that suggests weakness, making that scene a candidate for deletion.
  • Amplify Character Emotions: Readers want to experience the story vicariously through the characters, and scene tracking helps you include powerful emotions.
  • Organize and Order Scenes: Like stringing together organic pearls, tracking enables writers to organize and order scenes, making sure each one contributes to a beautiful story.
  • Enhance Descriptions: Scene tracking serves as a checklist, pointing out where writers can enhance descriptions of settings and senses to engage audiences.

Scene Tracking Methods

Here are two methods to track scenes.

  1. Add the scene beats as Custom Metadata prompts in Scrivener (my favorite method).
  2. As an alternative, create a spreadsheet in Excel, Numbers, or Google.

Discover Scene Tracking Contributions to Story

An array of story elements within each scene contributes to the overall story. A scene missing key elements may not contribute enough to warrant retention.

These tips offer writers a chance to either enhance the scene or delete it.

➨Intensity:

Rate the scene’s level intensity from low (1) to high (10). Later, you can view the story’s overall arc to determine if this scene contributes sufficient intensity in the right place.

➨Plot (Scene Purpose):

Define the scene’s purpose, denoting whether it moves the story forward:

  • Shows an Obligatory Scene
  • Satisfies a Genre Convention
  • Builds suspense
  • Develops character
  • Introduces character
  • Establishes a setting
  • Intensifies conflict
  • Moves story forward

➨Time:

Give a sense of when this scene takes place.

➨Point of View:

Identify which narrator controls the scene’s point of view.

➨Problem:

Show the scene’s challenge or threat as a subset of trying to overcome the story’s global problem.

➨Scene Goal:

Define the scene action needed to solve the scene challenge or threat.

➨Want (Optional):

Replace the scene goal with the POV character’s personal cravings fueled by a lie or false belief.

Conclusion

While writing, if you don’t know exactly how the scene contributes to the overall story, that’s okay. However, during the self-editing phase, you’ll thank yourself for nailing down each scene’s specific contributions.

If your answers make you wonder whether the scene does not sufficiently progress the story, then mark it as a candidate for revision or deletion. Nothing worse than leaving in a scene that makes readers skim, or worse, search for a more engaging book.

Besides serving as a litmus test for revising or deleting a scene, the contributions to the story stimulate your little gray cells, encouraging you to enhance the narrative in surprising ways. For example, does the intensity level ratchet up at the right time and place within the story? If not, how can you revise the scene to surprise and delight readers?

Next week, we’ll go over tracking the content of each scene, making sure the narrative delivers what readers want and expect.

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How do you track each scene’s contribution to the overall story?

4 Comments

  1. Good post. As far as tracking a scene’s contribution to the overall story, I keep a big-picture outline nearby and check it before and after writing a scene.

    1. Excellent, Priscilla! That’s a great writing habit. I love how scene tracking gives me a sense of the overall story arc.

  2. This is interesting. I sometimes think I know who controls the scene, but it’s actually someone else. I like that step–Identify which narrator controls the scene’s point of view.

    1. For writing immersive scenes, I’ve found tracking the narrator has proved priceless. It’s especially valuable when you have multiple narrators.

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