Scrivener and Save The Cat!: Using Metadata To Find Your Scene’s Essential Truth

The individual scene is the cell in the body of your story. But your overall story structure is the life’s blood of your scenes. Where many writers lose momentum — myself included — is finding the synergy between the cell and the blood, between the scene and the structure.

Well, thanks to Scrivener and the Save The Cat! story structuring method, I believe I have the answer to that dilemma. And it’s as easy as the metadata pane. Here’s how my metadata pane is set up, and you can do it the same way, or use any variation that suits you:

46th Mercury The Big Idea

Let me briefly define each of those fields:

This is where I describe “A versus B”, the essential conflict central to the scene. It could be, “Joe vs. Daisy” or “Joe vs. his phone”, could be “Daisy vs. the washing machine” or “Joe vs. his conscience.” The two elements at odds need not be human versus human.

Emotional Change +/-:
This is simply a note to myself to let me know where the emotional arc of the scene must begin and end. So could be, “Tense to Relaxed” or “Sad to Resigned”. This need not describe the emotional state of any single character; you could choose to subtly alter the verbs and phrases of your narration to steer the reader along this arc, without overtly displaying the arc in character actions or dialogue.

This is the character or elemental force, and it need not be your protagonist, who (or which) is driving the scene. The one who is talking, doing or both.

This is the character or force which is resisting the Driver. The Driver and Foil need not even necessary be the characters or forces which display the overt conflict of the scene, for those who like subtext. For example, the conflict may be “Joe vs. Daisy”, but your Driver and Foil could be Joe and Joe’s Car; in essence, Joe and Daisy argue while Joe tries to start his car, which is turning over but won’t start up. In this way, by separating Conflict from Driver and Foil, you can set up multi-layered conflict within scenes, all in advance.

To continue the hypothetical scenario of Joe arguing with Daisy while trying to start a recalcitrant car, the Setup here could be for a scene later where Joe and Daisy desperately need a getaway vehicle… and the car gets back up to its old tricks. Tricks which you’re showing — and setting up for later — in this scene.

If Daisy has given Joe the business about not keeping up with car maintenance in a previous scene, this is the Payoff. Here’s where we see for ourselves what she was haranguing poor Joe about.

The foregoing is, of course, an almost painfully obvious and cliched example. But we’re going for clarity, not cleverness, so I hope you can forgive me.

And now you hopefully have some idea of how to use metadata to get right at the heart of every single scene’s fundamental dynamics.

Until next time, please remember to support this blog; do good work, and be good to yourselves and each other.


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