Concrete Detail

Erika Hayes, Author – Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!

Okay, I have had several people ask me about the “wall”.  What are all those delicious colors and what is happening up there?  The wall as I mentioned is how I outline a book.  I am not a hardcore outliner and I am a bit of a pantser (all that means is I like to write by the seat of my pants).   As the pantser in me is released,  I need to be able to move my scenes around.  The outliner in me likes to have order, therefore, this seems to be a nice way to meet the needs of both sides of my writing style.

Once I have a story idea sort of fleshed out, I begin to develop the scenes I intend to write.    I think it would be fun to share how I make a scene card.  (I use sticky notes becasue I put my scenes up on the wall for quick reference but this entire process will work on index cards or in a notebook.)

Step One

Step One:

I give the scene a short title. It is important to keep it short and even catchy.  This helps a writer to refer back to what they are working on.  I like to give hints of what that scene may be disclosed in a story.  For example: if it is the “murder” scene I may make a reference to the weapon.  perhaps “Death in the leaves.”

Step Two:

Perhaps one of the most important parts of a scene card is this statement.  I don’t want to know what is happening yet.  I need to know why I am writing this scene.  Is it plot advancement? Character Development?  Setting?  Foreshadowing? Is there thematic importance? Is there a transformation in your character here?  What is the reason you need to have this scene in the story?  If you can’t come up with a solid reason, you may need to cut this scene.  I say this because it can cause you to lose a lot of time and energy writing scenes that are not serving a purpose in your story.  Istep-two.jpgf you are starting an outline after you have already written a part of the story, this may be a good way to determine if this scene is ready for the cutting room floor.  Readers will appreciate your honesty here.  Be honest, does this scene move your story along?  if not, cut it.

Step ThreeStep Three:

This is fun, but don’t get too carried away.  You will not write out a novel here.  This is simply a place to keep your mind on the action.  Action makes for good reading even when it’s not a climax scene you need to be mindful of the action in the scene.  Example of a not so action filled scene, my action statement may look like this:  The killer is stalking the detective.  Sitting outside the restaurant where she is trying to figure out who she is looking for.  

Step FourStep Four:

This is the one I need lots of flexibility on.  When you write a scene, you discover that you need to add or subtract a player from the scene if something juicer develops.  That is what when I add the players I use, you guessed it, more sticky notes.  Before I begin an outlining for the wall, I use the small sticky notes and a sharpie marker and write out the names of my characters.  (Protagonist will have the most)   I often choose a different color for each major and supporting characters, and use one color for lesser characters (such as someone that pops in for just a few minutes – it is not that they are lesser characters, but they hold less of a role in this story.  A good example may be a waitress that the protagonist knows and gives information, a co-worker or witness that is not involved in the story but is needed to advance the plot.)

Make characters

step-five.jpgStep Five:

The timeline is hard to keep track of sometimes when you are typing away.  I like to add a reference to the time/place each scene develops in the top right corner of my sticky note.  When I look at the wall, I can quickly access where that scene fit in when I move a scene, the timeline I simply pencil (important) through the timeline reference then write the new place it exists. I use a pencil because if I move something, I may move it back.  I also like to see where have I moved the scene because in editing it helps.  I may move that scene two or three times back and forth before I rest on where it creates the most tension, action and more importantly, where it makes sense in the story.

I do this for every scene I intend to write.  Some of the scenes get moved to the bottom of the sheet as things develop in a holding pattern.  Some end up in the trash and others are created along the way,  the important part is there is some order though fluid and ever-changing as the story is written.  It is a tiny road map to keep me headed in the right direction while still allowing for rabbit trails.



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