On Writing, Plot & Structure

Novelists: Step 4 – ‘Hook’ Your Reader/Construct Compelling Scenes

May 25, 2012

Now that you have your One-Sentence Summary , your One-Pager , and your Beat Sheet in hand, it’s time to actually begin writing your novel.

Here is where I need to explain that the 60 or so Scenes you will create to build your novel, are made up of two types: Action Scenes and Reaction Scenes.

And, before you begin, keep in mind that you are now creating a First Draft. That means, you will have an opportunity, when you have completed all 60 scenes, to rework them. You will, in fact, be able to revise them as many times as you need to to get them right. So, relax and enjoy the writing process.

That said, go to it!

Here’s how to create an Action Scene:

  • Keep the acronym GCF in mind. It stands for Goal, Conflict, Frustration.
  • Begin an Action Scene by making clear to the reader what your hero’s goal is (Win a contest? Win someone’s heart? Save the family farm? Make a fortune? Slay the dragon? Get a ship to port in a storm? etc.)
  • Show how the hero is met with Resistance which means he Conflicts with another person, the Antagonist, or with a group of people (war narratives), or with Nature (The Perfect Storm), or with any other force that frustrates his ability to achieve his goal.
  • Show how your hero’s efforts are defeated and so meet with Frustration.


Here’s how to create a Reaction Scene:

  • Keep in mind the acronym RRD for Reaction Scenes. It’s short for Response, Rumination, Decision.
  • So, after your hero’s efforts meet with Frustration, show your hero Responds to the frustration emotionally (anger, sorrow, resignation, disbelief, physical revulsion, etc.).
  • Show how your hero reacts to his rationally, how he Ruminates (thinks through) his options as to what he can do to yet achieve his goal.
  • Show how your hero reaches a Decision as to what he will now do to try again to achieve his desired outcome.

Keep in mind is that Action Scenes generally are longer than Reaction Scenes.

The reason for this is that writing that depicts action is more compelling than writing that depicts thinking – as Reaction Scenes do. So, to maintain a novel’s pace, you want to keep your Reaction Scenes shorter than your Action Scenes. Sometimes a Reaction Scene can be condensed to a few short sentences

Note: keep in mind that you can follow an Action Scene with another Action Scene. You do not need to always need to write a Reaction Scene.

How many Reaction Scenes do you need then? Enough to clarify the story – to explain the hero or heroine’s actions (how they make their choices) when it cannot be done through the preceding or following scene alone.

Important: In the first scene of the novel, remember to also create a “Hook” in the initial paragraph – and,  ideally, in the initial sentence – of your novel.

More about the Hook in the next post.


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