Deep Scene Challenge: Part 2 of 3

Welcome to Part II of our Deep Scene Challenge. 

As a reminder, you’ll probably get the most out of this if you a) read MAKING SENSE OF SCENES in the resource section of the website, and b) read Part I of the Deep Scene Challenge, posted last week.

In today’s challenge, let’s look at the elements of viewpoint character, inciting incident, and goals. 

Again, I’m assuming a basic understanding of these concepts, so the main thrust of this piece is to get you thinking and questioning your story and your decisions.


Every scene unfolds from a particular character’s point of view (generally not the author’s). In a novel with a single viewpoint, some avenues of exploration are limited. But it’s good to ask yourself the questions here, to determine whether an additional viewpoint might serve the story or whether a viewpoint you already have in play is diluting the impact of your scenes rather than bolstering it.


  • Does the scene unfold from a close or more distanced point of view, and what are the reasons for your choice?
  • How intimately connected are we to the character in the scene? Are we deeply feeling what he’s feeling? Experiencing, in a bodily way, what he’s   experiencing?
  • Is your viewpoint character the one with the most to lose in the scene? If not, who has more to lose?
  • How would this scene be different if it unfolded via another character’s perspective?
  • What secrets are held by the viewpoint character in this scene? How do they change the tenor of the scene? How are they revealed or kept hidden?


As mentioned in MAKING SENSE OF SCENES, the inciting incident is what occurred in another part of the novel to compel THIS moment. If a character is giving some indication of his lover’s affair in one scene, for example, that becomes the inciting incident propelling him into action, into other scenes of exploration (or revenge).


In other words, inciting incidents help create causality between scenes. They create a foundation of character MOTIVATION, which serves as the story’s engine, rather than relying on external events that force your character into reactive mode.


  • How is this moment inevitable?
  • How can this scene parallel another, later scene created from the same inciting incident?
  • What earlier moment in your viewpoint character’s life—even before the   story begins--creates the EMOTIONAL desire in this scene?
  • Did the inciting incident for this scene provide an inciting incident for a     character in opposition of your protagonist? How and when is that revealed? 


Every scene should be propelled by the GOAL of the viewpoint character in the scene, the feeling that they’re entering the moment with clearly defined practical needs (as well as, often, more subliminal emotional ones), usually created by an earlier inciting incident and absolutely related to the character’s overall ambition for the story.

Fundamentally, if a character doesn’t WANT anything in a scene, you can’t really have a scene. And in order for that scene to really have shape and dynamism, that goal has to be of a practical, observable nature. The reader should be able to ascertain whether or not the character ends up getting what he wants or is thwarted in that pursuit.


  • How overt is the viewpoint character’s CONCRETE desire made in this scene? How is the reader clued into what the character hopes to achieve?
  • In what ways is this goal a reluctant goal? What does the character want that he wishes he didn’t want? Or didn’t have to pursue?
  • Aside from the practical/concrete goal driving the scene, what is the viewpoint character’s more subtle, emotional goal? What does he want that he doesn’t KNOW he wants?

All points to consider in building the most textured and satisfying scenes possible—enroute to creating an awesome novel!


 Join us next week for part three, in which we’ll tackle OPPOSITION, STRATEGY, and RESOLUTION. Your scenes will be better for it! 

-- Lorin

Have questions or comments about any of this? Jump on in and discuss below!