Write a story from the scene up

Technical writers start with a goal, outline the process, and research specifics.

It’s tempting to think writing stories would work the same way (in teleocentric terms): start at the beginning and (while your hero encounters issues and fails, then finally succeeds) focus on stressed businessmanthe end game – a triumphant climax and a conclusion.

But when you’re just starting with an idea and a character or two, it’s more common to imagine isolated scenarios – like dreams.

  • Is your hero open-minded? Why, sure! When she met someone with an opposing opinion… and scene.
  • Is your hero broken? Oh, yes.  Why, when he… and scene.
  • Is your hero strong? Not really.  Why, when she… and scene.

After these daydreams, the writer has a related, but disparate group of scenes. Not a story.

If this resembles the way you write, consider this strategy.

You can anchor scenes to a plot (create an outline) and let that inform what to focus on next, or you can let the most compelling scenes (the ones with the most conflict) drag you to a climax. Pen an ending, and call it a story.

I’ve used both techniques.

  • The outline helped me find where the scene fit into the story and identify new scenes to write.
  • The most compelling scenes helped direct me to a climax I would never have imagined from the beginning. The story developed around the scene with the addition of an introduction and conclusion… but it was flat.  Then I penned a climax so pivotal, I had to scramble back and recreate everything.

With a foundation and solid characters, it was much easier to progress and eventually finish.


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