19 January 2014

Tracking Scenes In Your Memoir One Scene at a Time

I am using The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories to refine my memoir. On page 84 you give an example of a Scene Tracker for the beginning of The Great Gatsby. I cannot find an explanation of the various markings in the Emotional Change column which vary by scene.( --/--/ +/-, etc.) Could you please explain?

Also, in the conflict column, I am guessing the "X" indicates conflict present in the scene, whereas scenes without and "x" are probably summary. Am I correct?

My left brain thanks you for showing up at just the right time!

In Column #7, plot the emotion at the beginning of each of your scenes with a plus or a minus sign depending on how the character is feeling at the beginning of the scene. Continue to change the sign as long as the character’s emotion changes throughout the scene.

Without some sort of emotional change in your character, your story will become stagnant and you will likely lose the reader. Stories are living, breathing organisms. They must grow and change. The protagonist is a living, breathing organism who must grow and change as she tries to get something in life and fails and tries again. Each time your protagonist is knocked down, she must get back up and try again. As long as you are able to record a change in the protagonist’s emotional level somewhere throughout the scene, then your chances of keeping the reader’s interest increases.

It is best if the protagonist is in worse shape when she ends the scene than when she started the scene. No matter how bad things get for the character, they can and should always get worse. If you find that your protagonist is always happy or always sad with not many definite changes in emotions then perhaps you are like the writer who told me after she started tracking her scenes that she was finding that her piece was “a rather dour story of a dour character.”

Having had that realization, she began working on integrating a variety of emotion in some form or another to show more of the protagonist’s strengths and hopefulness.

As for your 2nd question: Yes, an X in Column #6 indicates there is indeed conflict and tension in the scene.  Those scenes without an X means that there is no conflict. Some writers choose to write a brief summary of the conflict in the box. Remember there is no right or wrong way to use the Scene Tracker. At anytime feel free to adapt it to suit your individual needs.

Today I write!

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