From what I understand, a scene card is a short description of a scene. I have thus far ignored them completely whilst reading The Weekend Novelist's Writes a Mystery, though the author seems to deem them important. Am I losing anything by not using them as an amateur writer, or are they a tool amongst many?

2 Answers 2


It is certainly useful to think about every scene in a novel in terms of structure. But using a scene card that prescribes a specific structure (or "arc") for every scene in every novel seems rather formulaic to me.

Not all novels follow the same internal structure, and scenes come in many different types. Unless you want to write formula fiction, I would rather develop the structure for each novel myself. Thus, each scene follows naturally from the story I want to tell, and not from some formula that someone tries to impose on every narrative.


You can plot your story from the climax backward by imagining the action and characters and settings that lead to the climax. Or, plot it from an inciting event forward. For either, a list of scenes captures the story.

For example, from climax backward:

Buster Keaton pratfalls on the sidewalk. Buster's shoe sole sets down on a banana peel. Buster's attention is distracted by a busty blonde cop directing traffic. Urchins are seen running about downtown strategically placing banana peels. Miserable home lives of urchins.

You would then write this forward, perhaps throwing in the urchin home life quality as snippets of exposition when developing the characters, e.g., "Billy smiled, showing the two big front teeth, with the diagonal chip taken out of one from when his father flung him to the floor."

The scenes can of course be added to or deleted as desired. Maybe the cop is Buster's long lost love. She sees him, and joy bounds up within her, only to die as she watches him smash his skull on the concrete.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.