I want to dig into the book Writing a Killer Thriller by Jodie Renner. I started a short series a week ago, then got sidetracked by something shiny. Now I’m back. The part I found most useful regarded scenes. Chapter 5 has a list, a process, to go through when planning a scene. The process comes from Jack M. Bickham, but was re-worded by Renner for brevity. I’m going to copy Renner’s list for you here, then comment.
1. Decide specifically what the main character’s immediate goal is.
2. Get this written down clearly in the copy.
3. On a separate not to yourself, write down, clearly and briefly, what the scene question is. Word it so it can be answered by “yes” or “no.”
4. In your story, after the goal has been shown, bring in another character who now states, just as clearly, his opposition.
5. Plan all the maneuver sand steps in the conflict between the two characters you have set up.
6. Write the scene moment-by-moment; no summary.
7. Devise a disastrous ending of the scene–a turning of the tables or surprise that answers the scene question badly. [ends badly for the protagonist]
Every scene must grab the reader and involve them in the protagonist’s goal. If the stakes aren’t high enough, if the protagonist isn’t likable enough, if the emotional investment isn’t there, you could craft the most amazing scene and it’ll still fall short.
Pull out your latest work and examine a scene you feel is boring. Try the seven steps above, re-write the scene, and see if it isn’t stronger. Do it now, then come back and tell me how well it worked.