I’ve been thinking about scenes lately, one of my favorite elements of writing, and thought I’d share.
1. Your hero has to be active. She has to want something and go after it.
2. Your antagonist has to be active. Just like the hero. Even if it’s from behind the scenes.
3. Both goals have to matter. Something has to be at stake; something bad has to result if (almost always when) the hero or antagonist doesn’t succeed.
4. Things have to get worse. Your hero can’t just make one try for the goal, fail, give up, and go back to being okay. He has to do battle, against increasing odds, across the scene. Then he can fail. Badly. (But not give up!)
5. Your hero may have only one antagonist, but that antagonist is not the only place that obstacles come from. Friends cause problems, parents step in the way, your hero becomes self-destructive. The world itself makes trouble–weather, culture, history—everything can conspire to stop your hero from reaching their goal. Obviously, you’re not going to throw everything all together in one scene, but remember to check out all the choices in the smorgasbord of obstacles, and pick the ones that fit the moment best.