Posted in Exercises

Scene Unsticking Questions

It happens to the best writers. Even in the middle of a draft that’s going well and with a well-detailed outline, sometimes we get stuck on a scene. It might be that we’ve opened a huge plot hole we don’t know how to close. Or, we’ve written our characters into an impossible situation and were hoping to have a clever answer to get them out of it again that just isn’t coming.

Hopefully some of these will help. Instead of trying to push through and write your way out, take a couple of minutes and answer these questions about your current sticky scene. When you’ve answered them all, come back and see which answers spark more ideas and use those ideas to continue the current scene.

Remember! There are no limits to the answers here, even if they seem ridiculous or don’t fit your current genre conventions. You can edit or come up with a reasonable explanation for it later. Right now is just for unsticking your scene.

  • What would happen if you killed your current PoV character?
  • What clichés fit your protagonist and how can you change them?
  • How would your supporting characters react to their biggest fears appearing in the current scene?
  • Which supporting character has a reason to defect to the other side?
  • Which family member’s death would affect your protagonist the most?
  • Which character has most recently told a lie and what was it?
  • What stereotypes fit your antagonist and how can you change them?
  • What would happen if your protagonist’s mother came in on the current scene?
  • What would happen if your antagonist’s mother came into the current scene?
  • How would your antagonist react to your protagonist revealing their darkest secret?
  • What would change about the current scene if you set it in a busy mall? An abandoned house? A thick forest? An open plain?
  • What would make your Love Interest fall for the antagonist?
  • How would your current scene to change if you switched the protagonist with a supporting character?
  • What’s one threat that would make the antagonist and the protagonist work together?
  • What one thing would make the antagonist give up?

If none of these work, consider skipping ahead to the next scene. You might find hints and clues about how your stuck scene resolved as you develop the next.



Posted in writing

Plot: Dishonored Beloved

A dishonored beloved plot can bring a whole new layer of complexity and twists to the story when employed. If you’d like, you can check out all of the plot scenarios here.

  • A wrongdoing is discovered against a loved one.

The roles for the dishonored beloved plot are extremely variable. You must have someone who commits the wrongdoing, you must have the loved one and you must have someone who discovers that wrongdoing. However, there is nothing to say that you can’t pile these roles on top of one another. For instance, having the loved one discover that their spouse has been having an affair (classic adultery). Alternately, have the wrongdoer find out that the person they’ve committed a crime against is in fact someone they care about. There are numerous ways to twist this plot.

Because of it’s great flexibility, as a main plot it works well in both character and plot driven stories. How characters act and react each to each part of the wrongdoing, discovery and resolution gives you ample room for character arcs. Making that wrongdoing a part of a larger crime plays well with plot-driven stories where the end goal is the gain or downfall of a group of people.


Posted in writing

Plot: Sacrifice

Sacrifice as a plot opens up space for a lot of internal conflict and character motivation. If you’d like to check out some other plot scenarios, you can do so here.

  • An object or person is given up to accomplish a goal or an ideal.

Looking at it initially, you might feel limited in the amount of roles you have to play with, but don’t be fooled. Not only do you have the person committing the sacrifice, the one attempting to stop said sacrifice, but you also have the one who takes the person or thing sacrificed. In some instances, the person who is given up is also the one committing the sacrifice, making this a case of self-sacrifice. In these cases, those who are left to complete that goal or ideal also fill out your roles.

Conflict can actually occur as both internal and external forms with a sacrifice plot. Depending on what is being given up and the cost of doing so, whoever commits to it may have reservations about doing so, even in the name of reaching their goal. As an external conflict, another party may want to prevent the sacrifice for varying reasons, either because they are the one to be sacrificed, or because they don’t feel it’s the best solution.

As a main plot, the goal itself needs to be relatively big and have an impact on everyone involved, with the sacrifice itself becoming the final solution and potentially your climax (this obviously may not hold true based on your story’s events and how exactly they take place). As a minor plot, the conflict over whether or not to make that sacrifice may work better in center stage.

Posted in Stories, writing

Plot: Obtainment

Obtainment as a plot scenario is related to daring enterprise, however unlike daring enterprise where the main focus is retrieval of that object, obtainment focuses heavily on why each character wants this particular item. You can check out all of the plot scenarios here.

  • A mediator negotiates between a solicitor and an adversary over a desired object.

Notice here that there are four major roles to fill in. Also note that depending on how you play out your obtainment plot, you may not need a mediator at all. Similarly, the object in question might not be an object at all, but rather the same goal–say a job position, or the love of a particular person. The trick with that is only one person can ultimately have that desired thing.

Regardless of whether it’s a main or minor plot, obtainment may not play particularly well with McGuffin-styled items. That is, the reason why this particular thing is so important and or desirable holds a lot of support, so simply having an item there to fill in the gap may not work. In this case, you might have some room to work symbolism into your plot.

Posted in Stories, writing

Plot: Abduction

One plot scenario that definitely relies on character motivations is the abduction plot. Whether a main plot or a minor plot, motivations here are key to making this particular scenario work smoothly. You can find some of the other plot scenarios here.

  • A captor takes the abductee away from safety.

An interesting thing to note about the roles here: your ‘safety’ may be a person, place or thing. In some cases it might take the form of someone trying to rescue the abductee. It could also be a place, such as the location your abductee was taken from, or the location your abductee is trying to get in order to get help from. As a thing, it also might be what allows your abductee to finally break free or find themselves help. There are of course, choices of where to place your point of view character. Are they the abductee, seeking to escape? Or do they need to rescue the abducted? Perhaps they’re they captor themselves, with their own very good reasons for doing what they do.

As I mentioned, regardless of major or minor plot, the motivations here are key. What reason does your captor have for taking this person specifically? What makes the abductee so important that any person filling in the role of rescuer is willing to go the lengths they need to to get the abductee back? And, what reasons does your abductee have for fighting your captor? What reasons might they have for aiding them?