As you may know, I’m currently writing what will become Season 5 of Q-Burger. I’m nearing the point in the process where I’ll need to make a list of all scenes (with brief descriptions of what happens) that occur in the story.
The scene list
There are a few reasons to do this. One is to provide myself a handy guide that tells me what happens in any given scene, which’ll make it easier to pick up and write.
Another reason for doing this somewhat tedious step is to have a nice, high-level reference to the overall flow of the story.
Commonly, people write each scene and accompanying description on notecards, tacking them on a corkboard, laying them on the floor, or shuffling them like playing cards. Some create spreadsheets. The whole point is to break the story into components. Then they add, subtract, or rearrange these components in order to best tell the story.
But how do you know what the best arrangement is?
Sometimes you just know how the story is supposed to go. Some writers have an instinct for this sort of thing. I don’t. At least, not yet. So, with the help of the following exercise, I’ve started to learn by doing exercises like the one that follows:
- Download a screenplay for a movie you’d like to watch. (SimplyScripts.com)
- Get a copy of the movie as well.
- Get a pen and a pack of notecards (or create a spreadsheet).
- Watch the movie and outline. Every time a new scene happens, pause the movie and write a one-sentence description of the scene on a notecard.?
- When the movie is finished, put your notecards aside.
- Now, get the screenplay that you’ve downloaded. Make a scene list of the screenplay by writing out all of the scene headers.?
- Lastly, compare your notecards outline to the paper outline from the screenplay.?
- Freewrite: What have I learned?
By doing this exercise, both by doggedly following every step and by doing it half-assed just in my head, I’ve started to develop my instincts for determining the best order for scenes in my writing.