Units of Story: Beats, Tropes, Scenes, Sequences, and Quadrants

  • Your scene should include at least one of these essential elements:
    • A plot point
    • A character’s goal
    • Action to advance the plot
    • Action to increase the tension
  • Scenes should also reveal at least two of the following important elements:
    • Character development
    • A cause of character conflict
    • An effect of character conflict
    • How stakes are raised
    • A reinforcement of the stakes
    • Character motivation
  • Scenes can also reveal these bonus elements:
    • Character backstory
    • World building
    • The story’s tone or mood
    • Story theme
    • Foreshadowing

Brainstorm your characters’ unique physical traits, personalities, and backgrounds What kinds of hobbies, beliefs, or interests


Don’t forget about the foreplay and build-up in the story

Kissing is rather simple. Write about the softness of the woman, how she feels under your character’s touch. Write about the kiss and the way your bodies are reacting to the kiss, and the way lips move and hands grip and voices moan. While kissing, lips can peck, press, slide, move and be brushed by tongues. Tongues can touch tentatively, slide across lips. Teeth can nibble and brush against soft lips. Let your imagination go wild

The key thing is to make your sex scene both sensual and alluring. Describe what’s happening, but do it from the perspective of the character and all that they bring to the scene. What are their hopes? What are can they see, touch, taste, hear? What’s it reminding them of? What are they feeling in their heart now it’s finally happening?

Fingers can slide and caress. Tongues can tantalise and tease. Lube can be popped and pressed. Everything the character thought they once knew can be rewritten. Sex scenes should move the story forward. They should reflect what has gone before and what’s possible from here on in. Your characters have just taken things to the next level. Show it all.

Remember, you’re not playing a game of Sex Twister: no crazy moves required. Don’t use coarse or flowery language as that will throw your reader out of the story. Keep it real, but elevate it to a almost-perfect reality. Make sure senses tingle and stars collide. It’s all in the build-up, all in the emotion. The first kiss, the first touch, the loaded look that tips your character over the edge. Romance and sex go hand in hand, so don’t be scared of writing a sex scene. Instead, put yourself in your character’s shoes and write from the heart. Embrace it. Have fun with it.

As you are creating your scene list on an Excel spreadsheet, keep these essential, important, and bonus elements in mind for the columns. Doing so will help ensure that each scene you write has the necessary elements needed to keep the plot moving forward the way it should. A scene that is written that doesn’t contain any essential or important elements is also a scene that can be considered for cutting when revising the rough draft into a final draft.

3. A scene list is easier to keep track of than post-it notes

The elements involved in a scene list are likely portions of your novel’s outline that you’ve already reproduced on post-it notes, index cards, or a similar variation. In fact, this article published by the WriteOnSisters, speaks of the Wall of Sticky Notes used in the process of screenwriting—a process very similar to novel writing. It’s based on Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat series—a series I’ve mentioned of


scene.. what is the conflict give some action and dialog, what does you character want give a cliff hanger or make reader want to turn the page.

  1. Feeling: “A bolt of raw adrenaline shot through Jack’s veins.” You show this first, because it happens almost instantly.
  2. Reflex: “He jerked his rifle to his shoulder . . .” You show this second, as a result of the fear. An instinctive result that requires no conscious thought.
  3. Rational Action and Speech: “. . . sighted on the tiger’s heart, and squeezed the trigger. ‘Die, you bastard!’” You put this last, when Jack has had time to think and act in a rational way. He pulls the trigger, a rational response to the danger. He speaks, a rational expression of his intense emotiona

Beats: A beat is a micro-interaction that demonstrates a change in energy and must always have an input and usually has an output

Genre is a label that tells audience members what to expect from our stories

Goal: A Goal is what your POV character wants at the beginning of the Scene. The Goal must be specific and it must be clearly definable. The reason your POV character must have a Goal is that it makes your character proactive. Your character is not passively waiting for the universe to deal him Great Good. Your character is going after what he wants, just as your reader wishes he could do. It’s a simple fact that any character who wants something desperately is an interesting character. Even if he’s not nice, he’s interesting. And your reader will identify with him. That’s what you want as a writer.

  1. Conflict: Conflict is the series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching his Goal. You must have Conflict in your Scene! If your POV character reaches his Goal with no Conflict, then the reader is bored. Your reader wants to struggle! No victory has any value if it comes too easy. So make your POV character struggle and your reader will live out that struggle too.
  2. Disaster: A Disaster is a failure to let your POV character reach his Goal. Don’t give him the Goal! Winning is boring! When a Scene ends in victory, your reader feels no reason to turn the page. If things are going well, your reader might as well go to bed. No! Make something awful happen. Hang your POV character off a cliff and your reader will turn the page to see what happens next.

Scene has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Goal
  2. Conflict
  3. Disaster