I am currently writing the first draft of my novel. I have its outline panned out, down to the chapters, even what should be happening in each chapter. I have written a rough draft, where I have described the parts which were clear to me and skipped those which were not.

After that, now when I'm starting my first draft, I find that, now, I'm not able to flesh out the details of some of the scenes. I know what the outcome of the chapter should be, I know what is supposed to happen in the scene but don't know how to get there.

For e.g. there is a scene in my novel where a person is brought to trial. I know the outcome of the trial, I know the arguments to be covered for the trial but I'm not able to visualise and hence pen the scene. Which order should the arguments be presented? How should the minor characters interact during it ? etc

Mind you, that this is only for certain scenes (which, I admit, are not entirely clear to me). There have been scenes where I've written the entire chapter in one sitting. So what should I do to fill out the details of the blocking chapters ? I find myself procrastinating while trying to work out the flow of the chapter.

  • 1
    Useful guide: Ask yourself "why" any detail, or event, needs to be mentioned. If a scene is not clear (that is, you do not have it visualized), ask yourself whether it is necessary to visualize it.
    – user23046
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 20:14
  • 1
    I don't think there is any royal road to learning on this, you just have to bite the bullet and work it out. Is the book set in real world? then look up the appropriate type of court and do some research. If it's a fantasy world... maybe you need to build a justice system from the bottom up, or model it on a real world version. Once you have worked out that flow you will have a better idea how minor characters would be behaving.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 20:20
  • You can try adding more details to the surroundings (like a film set) and more background as to why the character arrived at this scene in the plot. then the dialogues can flow more naturally.
    – Dev
    Commented Mar 20, 2017 at 10:01

3 Answers 3


It sounds like you're writing top down. Try bottom up where you're having difficultly. Let the characters lead and follow their interests. Introduce conflict and goals at that level. You should start to feel your charters acting of their own accord and that may help you move forward.

I'm also wondering if you feel bored by what you are writing. That's a huge indicator you need to shake things up. This can happen to outliners who need to develop discovery skills to keep the writing interesting.

If all else fails, try to remember the fun idea that got you to write the scene. Often times when I get bogged down, finding the fun fixes it.

  • 1
    Well put. To that I add: If the writer knows actual people who could mentally serve as the characters, try visualizng them in the roles. What would they think, say, and do under the circumstances? I have found this to be very helpful. Of course, you do not want to be so specific that the persons will recognize themselves!
    – user23046
    Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 21:36

I have this happen to me quite a lot. It usually implies research.

Very often I want some event to happen but, since I've never been through similar events, I can't visualise what would naturally happen. The process is always the same:

  1. read (books or online) general descriptions of the particular event (the objective is to understand how it usually, or ideally, unfolds)
  2. read (books or online) anecdotes involving the particular event (each person experiences similar events differently, so different personal takes will widen a writer's horizons)
  3. talk to people who have personal and first hand experience on the topic, whether face to face or on forums
  4. watch videos (youTube, TV shows, films, whatever) about the event, whether it's real footage or fictionalised (but, if fictionalised, try to ascertain how much creative license was taken)

Feel free to interrup the process the moment you can visualise your scene. Some events are easier to get a feel for than others.

In your particular case, if this scene is about trials, find out how a trial really works. Read about it, talk to someone who knows about it, go to forums where you might expect someone to give you some hints (and by hints I mean real life situations and anecdotes, which are often quite different from idealised descriptions) and ask about TV shows or films that are relatively true to life. If possible, see if you can sit in on a trial or talk to someone who's been through one. Sometimes, just the possibility of walking around a place (in this case a courthouse) could be enough to give you plenty of ideas, especially for little details that can bring the setting to life.


The danger you can run into with that kind of detailed planning (there are dangers in all approaches to a large piece of work) is that it can lead you to focus on plot at the expense of conflict.

Stories are essentially about recreating the experience of conflict and its resolution: what is it like to fight a battle, what is it like to compete for the love of a woman, what is it like to search for buried treasure. Each chapter of a novel should give some new insight into the nature of these conflicts and their resolution.

Plot is a device for creating the occasions on which the conflicts occur. A plot should be built to progressively heighten the experience or to reveal new aspects of the experience.

If you plot out a story without keeping the escalation and exploration of conflict in mind, however, you are likely to end up with scenes in which there is nothing actually to tell. Events may have to occur in order to set up the next scene in which the conflict can be escalated or explored, but unless those events actually contribute to the escalation or exploration, they should not be dramatized.

We have all read novels in which large gaps of time occur, and in which any events occurring within those gaps are narrated briefly when the story resumes, just to fill in the gaps. The gaps in time are there because no escalation of exploration of the conflict occurs in that period. The passage of time may, indeed, be necessary to get to the point where it is possible to further escalate or explore the conflict.

But if your plot plan does not recognize this, if your planning has not included the arc of conflict for each major character, and if your plot is not mapped out to support those arcs, you are going to find that when you start writing, you have a bunch of scenes planned in which there is nothing actually to say because those scenes do not escalate or explore new ground in any of the conflicts.

A related problem you may run into is the each of your character's actions are driven by their personality and their conflict. If those things were not fully accounted for in your planning (and sometimes even if they were) you will sometimes find yourself with a plot plan that requires Tom to do X, but it is now obvious to you, having written Tom and his conflict for some time, that Tom would not do X in this situation.

Now you are stuck. You have a whole plot planned out which hinged on Tom doing X at a critical moment, but it is now obvious, based on all you have come to know of Tom, that he simply would not do X, and so either you have to replan the second half of the novel around Tom doing Y instead, or you have to replan the first half to create the circumstances in which Tom would do X. Until you resign yourself to this, however, you are just going to feel stuck, unable to write the next scene.

The only way out of this that I can see is to stand back and look at the arcs of conflict in your story and figure out why they have stalled out at this point.

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