Scene Structure: How to Write Goals [Novel Boot Camp #10]

Scene structure is very important in creating a strong plot. In this video I discuss how to use goals in your proactive scenes to create a strong sense of momentum and to keep the reader interested.

Video Highlights

  • There are two types of scenes: proactive scenes (built on action) and reactive scenes (built on emotion).
  • Proactive scenes must have a goal to give the scene a sense of direction and purpose.
  • A goal can be introduced immediately if the protagonist wants to achieve something, or an external obstacle can be introduced at the beginning of the scene to create a goal.

Questions to Ask About Your Novel

1. Look at a few scenes in your novel. Does the character have a clear goal?

If the character isn’t trying to achieve anything in a proactive scene, the reader is likely to lose interest or grow bored. Adding a goal can help strengthen a scene, but often adding a goal is not as simple as a quick edit and scenes need to be rewritten or cut to create a better flow to the story and a better sense of momentum.

If you have any questions about scene goals, please post them in the comments.

Workshop #2 peer critiques have been posted. Please don’t forget to critique at least five submissions!

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4 thoughts on “Scene Structure: How to Write Goals [Novel Boot Camp #10]

  1. Brett Mumford says:

    I could see some of the weaknesses with different chapters in my novel, immediately after I watched your video. I had known there was a problem, but was unable to put my finger on it, now I can see what has been bothering me. Thanks.

  2. Bret says:

    Thanks for this terrific resource!! Could you give some advice on writing those places in the story, for instance, where characters or settings are being described? Is there a way to write those portions of the novel so as to keep reader interest as opposed to elaborating with meaningless details? Or should every scene be either proactive or reactive?

  3. Nicole L Ochoa says:

    Oh my goodness, I feel like a failure. This makes so much sense and I should have realized it earlier. My first round of critiques all agreed that I needed to give my character a goal that moves the plot forward in each scene so I have been working to do just that. I randomly opened my novel to three areas and this is what I found, I might be on the right path or I could be careening towards failure. I can’t thank you enough Ellen for putting on this camp.

    Chapter 5:
    Sarah initially needs to get an umbrella before the next storm sets in but is redirected when she is caught in a deluge.

    Chapter 12:
    Sarah is going camping with a new set of friends in an attempt to meet people in the new town.

    Chapter 19:
    Sarah needs to get to Yolo to meet her new boyfriend’s family.

  4. Pam Portland (@TruckingWriter) says:

    Because my story is based on lots of smaller travel goals, my protagonist is constantly trying to get to locations, so that makes writing goals for scenes easier, but I think what the protagonist learns at each of these locations may be what helps her grow and develop.

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