How to Construct Scenes in Your Story Using Plus & Minus Formula

in #writing3 years ago

     One of the main reasons for rejections is the lack of plotting organization or the colorful pictorial quality that scenes give a story. Most new writers fail to realize the power scenes create in a story, often forgetting that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that one well constructed scene is better than an infinite number of poorly construted scenes.  

     Humanity’s first form of written story telling were drawn pictures on cave walls, to record ideas and objects important to their culture. So, therefore we humans love pictures and have always been drawn to scenes depicting life, and it for this reason is why creating good scenes in fiction is important. The best writers all have one thing in common and that is the ability to see story telling graphically (pictures) and choose the best words to transmit drama in scene form. The best writers play the scene game. They have an understanding the power that scenes can produce to move the story forward. It is one the great plot secrets that really isn’t a secret, but few amateurs take in consideration and fail to study.  

  5 Ingredients of Scene Construction  

  1. Defined Characters
  2. Active Conflict
  3. A Time Boundary
  4. A Place Boundary
  5. An Emotional Boundary

  Note: No Matter if you create an exciting scene and build the story around it, or if you map out your plot and then break into scenes, each scene must contain the five elements, failure to do so the reader will know something is off and disrupt the flow of the story.    

     Each scene needs a beginning, middle, and end, containing a strong reversal of the opening at the closing and with pluses and minuses in the scenes.  

"HUH? What in the hell are you talking about, pluses and minuses?” 

       A scene must either, start with a plus and end with a minus, or a scene must start with a minus and end with a plus. I know, sounds confusing, but its not. Let me explain. Since all scenes may share the story’s fundamental conflict, you must move each scene in a different direction. If one scene ends with a plus, the next must end with a minus. Good examples of this is ancient classics, Good versus Evil, always in a struggle for passion of the hero’s soul – In one scene Good wins and evil lose, and in the next scene evil wins and Good loses, creating a teeter-totter effect keeping the reader guessing which will eventually triumph in the finale scene.   

     The Pluses and Minuses formula still holds true today, it’s the old morality trick of making opposing values of the characters.  

Example 1:  

Scene 1: From plus to minus:  Prince Rheon was happy to escape the pressure of kingdoms courts and decided to sail the oceans for a much needed break. One week into the journey his ship crashes against boulder and thrown overboard, and washes ashore in a foreign land, and stumbles upon a cave and greeted by an Oracle and gives him his fortune, that he will meet and marry a lowly peasant girl who will take over his kingdom as ruler.   

Scene 2: From minus to plus:  Torn by the prophecy, he finally and weeks on the island half starved, he is finally rescued and returns home. Once home he follows the oracles prophecy down to the letter and discovers the daughter of a beat farmer. He watches the small three rooms shake for weeks, and one day the farmer’s daughter is left alone as mother and father go to the city to sell beats. Rheon sneaks in her room at night and says “I’m sorry,” and stabs her in the gut with his dagger. Feeling guilty he leaves enough gold for the father and mother to live comfortable for the rest of their lives. Happy he had freed himself from the prophecy he returns home.    

Scene 3: From plus to minus:   Father and mother are happy, it was the most money they ever made in there lives at the market. The grace from the gods had spared his beat farm from the fungal disease, and destroying other beat farmers crops. He was able to sell all his beats at a higher price. But when they returned home they call for their daughter and she is nowhere to be found, they search the shake and find her on her bed lying in a pool of blood.   

Scene 4: From minus to plus:  On the brink of death the local doctor saves her life. Father wanting to give his daughter the best life he could, and invested the money Rheon left and makes a fortune, becoming wealthy, and moves to the city, buying a beautiful villa on the outskirts of the city, becoming neighbors with nobles and wealthy business owners.   

Scene 5: From plus to minus:  At the local ball in the kings court Rheon meet a lovely girl a few years younger than he was, and together they dance. He was smitten by her beauty and courts her, and for weeks he courts her, but she rejects him. Heart broken and confused Rheon’s father dies, thrusting him into kingship. A job he never really wanted.   

Scene 6: From minus to plus:  A year after of depression running the kingdom, Rheon holds the annual dancing ball in the king’s court, and is surprised to see the beautiful girl there, and asks for a dance and she accepts. For weeks he courts her, and finally agrees to marry him. it was the happiest day of his life.  

 Scene 7: From plus to minus:  Life was hard as a queen, but together they remained happy, making love several times a week. Then one day they get in a huge argument and he strikes her, and says; “I’m sorry.” She freezes, remembering back to the night when she was stabbed, remembering the voice saying, “I’m sorry.” as he plunged the dagger in her gut. She remembers now. It was Rheon, and she hatches a plan and two weeks later she poisons Rheon, and on his death dead she visits him, and whispers in his ear, “I know it was you. I was the girl in the shake. She pulled her dress up showing her scare. Unable to speak Rheon gasps, for the oracle had come true. He had married a peasant girl who took over his throne.   

      Above is just an example. There is no set rule that pluses and minuses have to work in the above example. Look at the examples below 

  Example 2: 

  1. Scene : From plus to minus 
  2. Scene : From minus to plus 
  3. Scene : From minus to plus 
  4. Scene : From plus to minus  

Example 2: 

  1. Scene : From plus to minus 
  2. Scene : From plus to minus 
  3. Scene : From plus to minus 
  4. Scene : From minus to plus    

       You catch the drift. Just remember if a scene must end in an opposite value. Play and experiment with pluses and minuses and you will learn the value this brings in stories. As mentioned earlier using the pluses and minuses creates a teeter-totter effect keeping the reader guessing.  

     Another good way to learn pluses and minuses is to make complete scene outlines of professional stories, plays and TV scripts and you’ll see the reversal rhythm pluses and minuses create. Great stories create opposite value in scenes.  

     The first scene in scene is the most important scene in your book. It must be arousing curiosity in the reader and hooking the reader to continue on, just as the first sentence in your story is the most important. If you fail to hook the reader than the book has failed to its job, but no matter the opening style you choose to open your scene, your scene must have suspense and a sharp basic conflict that will continue throughout the story, to be solved in the finale scene, for every finale scene has a revelation (explanation).  

     An Explanation must come in the finale scene to tie up all loose ends and unanswered questions. A skilled reader is always leaving unexplained points throughout the story to keep the reader guessing to the end where all is explained. You can also pack an unexpected surprise at the end, as long it is credible according to characterization and story development.  


     There is question among new writers, how many scenes should a story have? Or, how many words should a scene have? Well, there is no answer. Each story is different. You should have as many scenes as it takes to tell your story. And for the how many words should be in a scene, all depends on action and drama, but remember the rule, never use two words when one word will do.  

  It would serve you well to remember, that no matter the length or number of scenes, each scene must reverse action and character relationships from the beginning to the end, and each scene must contain 5 Ingredients of Scene Construction:  

  1. Defined Characters
  2. Active Conflict
  3. A Time Boundary
  4. A Place Boundary
  5. An Emotional Boundary

     Learning to create scenes will dramatically improve the overall quality of your story. Your job as a writer is to entertain the reader and keep them turning the page, and leaving them feeling satisfied. You are a writer, and you were given a great gift. Now it is up to you to go and write and hone your skills to create great works of literature.  

  Follow. UpVote. Resteem. 


Source Image:   

Source Image:   

Source Image: <      


Hi shanedustin,

This post has been upvoted by the Curie community curation project and associated vote trail as exceptional content (human curated and reviewed). Have a great day :)

Visit or join the Curie Discord community to learn more.

Wow! Awesome. Thanks so much

What a great informative post, thank you.
If I may add something that I learned from successful Hollywood writer and producer Larry Brody at his Las Vegas workshop several years ago.
He calls it :

Cut The Heads And Tails Off Your Dinosaurs

By this he means - get straight into the action, and get out leaving people wanting more
If you look at the image below, and imagine it witout a tail or neck and head, then relate that to your story, you'll see how much waffle you can cut out of a gentle lead up to the main action

Image source:
I hope that helps people to further improve their writing and adds value to your already quality post

Thanks for the comment. I have never heard of Cut The Heads And Tails Off Your Dinosaurs, very interesting. I can see what see what Larry Brody is talking about. That is awesome.

Hi shanedustin,

This post was nominated by a @curie curator to be featured in an upcoming Author Showcase that will be posted Late Saturday/Early Sunday (U.S. time) on the @curie blog.

NOTE: If you would NOT want us to feature your post in the Author Showcase please reply, email, or DM me on Discord as soon as possible. Any photos or quoted text from your post that we feature will be properly attributed to you as the author.

  • If you would like to provide a brief statement about your posting, your life or anything else to be included in the article, you can do so in reply here or look me up on Discord chat (@misterakpan#6646).

You can check out our previous Author Showcase to get an idea of what we are doing with these posts.

Thanks for your time and for creating great content.
Akpan (@curie curator)
[email protected]


Thanks a lot. That is awesome, and a good thing I didn't know here was such a thing existed. I'm still new here and still learning. But anyways thanks.

Congratulations @shanedustin! You have completed the following achievement on the Steem blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

You received more than 250 upvotes. Your next target is to reach 500 upvotes.

Click here to view your Board of Honor
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

Do not miss the last post from @steemitboard:

Meet the Steemians Contest - The results, the winners and the prizes
Meet the Steemians Contest - Special attendees revealed
Meet the Steemians Contest - Intermediate results

Support SteemitBoard's project! Vote for its witness and get one more award!

Thank you for this tips, it is amazing how we love books, stories and sometimes we also want to tell stories but the question really is if people will like them or not. I remember my son and his friends when they were about 10 decided to write a continuation story about "Avatar: The last Airbender" because they were waiting for couple of years and no continuation was there. That time I really enjoyed seeing them writing their story, of course it was simple but they were very excited about that. I was feeling bad that I could not give them any advice as I have no idea what is the best when you write a story and how to structure. Reading your post that helped me understand what is important in creating a story and thank you for taking us through that little tutorial :)

Thank for taking the time to read the article. Writing is one of those skills people should learn, even if they never write stories, by learning proper ways to write gives us the ability to express our opinions, and express ideas clearly. Before the modern area people wrote to each other in letters, and because there were no instant messaging system, people had to learn the fundamentals of writing, it is for this reason most of the old letters are beautifully written.
And that is cool about your son and friend, it is little things like that make the whole difference in the world, and now you have a memory that is priceless. Awesome.

Congratulations @shanedustin! You have completed the following achievement on the Steem blockchain and have been rewarded with new badge(s) :

You got more than 10 replies. Your next target is to reach 50 replies.

Click here to view your Board of Honor
If you no longer want to receive notifications, reply to this comment with the word STOP

Support SteemitBoard's project! Vote for its witness and get one more award!