Harness the Power of Story
Table of Contents
Global Story Beats
The blueprint of story structure flows across the traditional acts:
When you build a Story Spine, it’s what supports a well-constructed narrative. The Story Spine is a multifaceted writer’s tool, enabling you to improvise a narrative quickly, identify what it’s about, and edit a bloated draft.
Story Scene Blueprint
Segment Global Story Beats into scenes.
Unleash the power of Scrivener by adding Custom Metadata. Think of Custom Metadata as notes stored in a spreadsheet, but instead of maintaining information in a separate application, Scrivener places the information in a side-bar (i.e., Inspector) next to each scene. For example:
Track Story Contribution
- INTENSITY: Rate level intensity from low (1) to high (10).
- PLOT/PURPOSE: Denote plot or subplot, and define scene’s purpose:
- Build suspense
- Develop character
- Introduce character
- Establish a setting
- Intensify conflict
- Move story forward
- TIME: Give a sense of when this scene takes place.
- POV: Identify who is the controlling point of view in this scene.
- PROBLEM: Show a scene challenge or threat that’s a subset of trying to overcome the story’s global problem.
- GOAL: Define the scene action needed to solve scene PROBLEM.
- WANT (Optional): Replace the scene GOAL with the hero’s personal cravings fueled by lie and misbelief.
Track Scene Beats
- HOOK: Offers something new or references the foreshadowing established in a prior scene, such as:
- Shows action
- Foreshadows trouble
- Dialogue grabs attention
- Raises question
- SETUP: Provides brief information regarding the character and current location.
- TRIGGER: Forces to the surface the scene PROBLEM.
- WRANGLE: Shows hero reflecting briefly on the choices and actions required to deal with the problem.
- ACTION: Moves character from the scene PROBLEM toward the scene GOAL (or WANT) based on hero’s choice and action.
- CLIMAX: Shows the outcome of character trying to achieve GOAL (or WANT), and sets up the drive to next scene, such as:
- Ends with a cliffhanger
- Redirects story with a revelation
- Presents hero (villain) with a setback
- Reveals a secret or a lie
- Teases readers with a question
- Interjects an unexpected plot twist
Track Scene Content
- CONFLICT: List the primary opposing force that increasingly frustrates hero’s efforts to accomplish scene GOAL.
- NEED (Optional): Show how the hero’s fatal flaw rears its head, resulting in her lowest point where no solution to the scene PROBLEM because character’s inner issues (the individual’s emotional wound, lie, and misbelief) hinder attaining the scene GOAL.
- STAKES: Give the hero an overwhelming reason to continue making choices and taking actions despite the opposing force. Plot events cause TURNING POINTS, but it’s the STAKES that increase tension (e.g., will she succeed?).
- TURNING POINT: Show the positive or negative strategic shift in value of hero’s next choice and action by moving from (+/-) or (-/+) or (+/+ +) or (-/- -) based on whether the scene GOAL was achieved.
- SURPRISE (Optional): Change dramatically the general trajectory of the hero’s efforts to solve story problem by introducing a plot twist.
- QUESTIONS: List questions opened or closed within this scene.
- CLUES: Show which facts were disclosed within the scene and to whom.
- RED HERRINGS: Show which untruths (red herrings) were disclosed within the scene and to whom.
- FORESHADOW: Show what will happen in the future and when author plans to pay off the foreshadowing with an event.
- SYMBOLS/MOTIFS/OBJECTS: Show common meanings through Symbols/Motifs, and Objects that have special meanings to the story.
- CHARACTERS: List the characters in the scene on stage (+) and those only heard or referenced off stage (-).
- SETTING: Describe where this scene takes place, and how the location contributes to the story.
- WEATHER: Describe the atmosphere and how the climate adds to the story.
- EMOTIONS: Show what creates a sense of wonder, romance, adventure, humor, mystery, drama, or lust.
- SENSES: List what the POV character senes: Smell, Taste, Hear, Touch, and See.
I have not discovered a convenient way to update and track the above information from within Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. In the past, I used a separate spreadsheet that required frequent updates.
Instead of maintaining an Excel or a Numbers spreadsheet, the power of Scrivener simplifies adding, updating, and viewing Custom Metadata in the Inspector and Outliner.
Deepening Reader Connections
Use Scrivener’s Custom Metadata to apply and track Deep POV techniques to your writing, and ProWritingAid’s Dialogue Report to identify and replace unusual dialogue tags with action beats.
Jodie Renner offers instructions and examples in her book, Captivating Your Readers.