At the moment, I’m deeply immersed in my YA thriller trilogy, The Chat Room. I have written the first draft of the first book, The Secret Life of Mindy Palmer and a rough outline for Book 2, In Too Deep and Book 3, Beyond Truth.

What I’ve realised recently is that I need to know exactly what’s happening in Books 2 and 3 so that I can drop the appropriate clues and foreshadowing into Book 1. It’s not enough to have a rough outline for each book, I have to know what’s happening in each scene.

A scene is basically a piece of conflict, a snapshot of an event that impacts the character’s life and consequently, their story. It has to either move the character towards their overall goal or demonstrate how that goal has changed.
As the book progresses , the scenes should show increased conflict for the main character – this is what is meant by ‘raising the stakes’.


So what I’m doing now is going back and doing a scene by scene breakdown for each of the three books and here are the steps I’m following to try and create a trilogy with continuity, rising tension, high stakes and well placed clues.

1.    I have written each scene on a separate system card.

2.    I have written the scenes for each book in a different coloured pen to differentiate them from each other

3.    I have laid all the scenes out on the dining table so that I can follow the progress of each book and monitor tension, slow spots and where I need to put in more clues and foreshadowing, or perhaps another twist or alternative point of view.

4.    I have looked at the scenes in each individual book to make sure they are active, appear in a logical sequence and have rising tension.

5.    I have organised the scene cards in sequence for each book so that I can look at the overall shape of the plot (the plot arc).


These are the things I look for in my scenes and they form the basis of the summary I write on each scene card:

  1. My main character’s goal and motivation in the scene
  2. What stands between them and their goals – obstacle/conflict
  3. How will they overcome this obstacle
  4. What changes in this scene for the character?
  5. Why does this scene need to be there?
  6. Deeper layers of meaning – eg character’s emotions and attitude, foreshadowing, clues, themes, subplot


Once I have my scene cards worked out and the order of events, I type everything up on a scene summary. This is just an A4 sheeti/sheets where I list the scenes in order.

The scene summary also contains any information I might need to add like secondary character reactions and sub-plots, setting information etc.

The scene summary is more portable than a stack of scene cards or a computer, so it’s something I can take with me and mull over while I’m waiting at the dentist, the school etc – wherever I have time to do some extra thinking, but not necessarily writing.

Scene summaries and scene cards are easy to add to.

If you have Scrivener, you can do this process on the computer, but I must admit, I like to see all the scene cards laid out in front of me and be able to physically move them around.

If you’d like to delve deeper into scenes, you might want to check out this link to a post about Writing the Perfect Scene. Thanks to my good writerly friend, Sheryl Gwyther for sending this great information my way so I can share it here.

Happy reading and writing:)


P.S. Don’t forget to check back here for Friday Feedback. 


  1. I tried scene cards for a fantasy I wrote and it helped so much. Then I seemed to forget for my next novel. Thanks for the reminder, I am definitely going to start using them again… as of today!
    And I’ll have to check out Sheryl’s link for perfect scenes 🙂
    Wagging Tales

  2. Hi Charmaine,

    I must admit I often use different methods for different novels. Sometimes I use scene cards and sometimes I do extensive mind mapping, but I really think it does help to think about each scene individually and its place in the story.

    Happy writing:)


  3. Thanks again, Dee for this most helpful post. I am off to buy cards today as bits of paper that I tried blow about if I open the window!
    I also really like reading your scene summary, so great to see how you prepare.
    I checked out Sheryl’s link and it’s really helpful. Have popped it into my ‘favourites’. I am loving information about scenes and planning. It’s giving me such a way forward.

  4. Thanks, Kaye,

    The cards are good too because you can stack them and carry them around with you to things like kid’s sports games etc and just add another card when you think of an idea.

    Everyone has different ways of working, but the scene cards work for me.


  5. In Y writer (writing program) there is a facility to do scene cards, and you can print them out too. I’m now in the process of doing this with my story as I can see the benefits of being able to look at the scenes as movable pieces. Thanks for your post, it has confirmed why I was doing it.

  6. Thanks, Alison,

    I agree that scene cards are good for shuffling and getting you out of the ‘rut’ of your original plot.

    I’m looking forward to you reading Mindy too. She has changed a lot since you last saw her:)


Comments are closed.