Novel Writing,  Writer's Block,  Writing Inspiration

Turning a Scene into a Novel

“Hey Lizard! So I have an idea for a story, but it’s only one scene. I have no idea where to go with it or how to flesh it out into a longer idea. Can you help please?”


Frankenstein by Mary Shelley started out as one very spooky scene that Shelley first imagined on a surprisingly chilly summer’s evening to scare her literary friends. Though getting from just one cool scene to an entire book is not without its challenges.

First: Save that cool scene in a folder and don’t touch it. Make a copy of it that you can work with. Even if you change it, it’s not gone. You can always go back.

Next: Play with it. Come up with different stories that this scene could fit into. Be wild. It might help to journal about it. Come up with ideas that this scene spurred you to imagine. This is always the trickiest part. You can’t be too attached to the thing you initially wrote if you’re trying to expand beyond it. Remind yourself, there are no stupid solutions. You’re trying something out.

Mary Shelley’s first version of her novel came from a dream. It was about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made. That’s it. The novel is so much more than that.

Imagine “what if this happened next?” or try to keep writing, and write the scene that happens next. Is this scene the beginning? What scenes need to happen for us to get there? Like I said, it helps to journal about it. I like to think through possibilities on paper. That way I don’t lose track of them.

At this point it’s helpful to start thinking about different themes that inspired the initial scene. That’s usually the best direction to start branching out towards. What is the thing that you love most about it? Where does suggest the story should go? This is most likely really the thing you want to write about, so try to go there. See where it leads.

After: Decide how you plan your novels. Do you write an outline? Do you have a point in the story you’re writing towards? Do you take it just one scene at a time. This is going to be a personal decision. What you do next goes back to how you write. I personally am not a huge planner. I might know what information should be conveyed where, but that’s about it. Some people make charts and maps and outlines, some people just start writing.

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