On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ending the Scene

The basic unit of the story is the scene. The scene is a miniature story in which something happens to push the larger story forward, and its anatomy is fairly simple: the GOAL of the scene (what the main character is trying to accomplish); the CONFLICT (back and forth between movement toward the goal and obstacles); and the DISASTER (end of the scene).

The DISASTER or ending can end in four ways. Let's imagine that the scene goal is that Tom wants to ask his boss for a raise. Here are the four possible outcomes:

Yes: Tom's boss says, sure I'll pay you more money. The "Yes" answer generally stops the story action, and therefore should only be used for a specific, deliberate effect.

Yes But: Tom's boss says, sure I'll pay you more money but you're going to have to work half days on Saturdays. This is a good scene ending because it introduces a further question into the story: How will Tom be able to put in this extra time when he already has something else to do on Saturdays that is essential for him to complete the story goal.

No: Tom's boss says, no you cannot have more money. If you have a "No" scene ending then you can safely delete this scene since it doesn't advance the story -- your character is in the same place after the scene as he was before it started.

No and Furthermore: Tom's boss says, no you can't have a raise, and furthermore you're fired. This is an effective scene ending because it heaps further problems onto our hero's poor shoulders.


When writing it's important to always be moving your story ahead. Your scene ending is the means to accomplish this movement.

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