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Karen Phelps Heines

The Lamb Was Sure to Go is the working title of my mystery. I began writing fiction four years ago and this is the fourth revision of the same core story, although the revisions look nothing alike. The mystery develops in eighty-three scenes, a number that changes as I refine it.

 After the plotline diagram, the scene list is the most critical element in developing my mystery. The scene list maps writing from plot point to plot point. It keeps my three concurrent story lines (bad guys, law enforcement, and victim’s family) in sync. I know from experience that these get out of sync without a scene list.

In earlier versions I wrote a brief paragraph describing each scene and, after completing the entire scene list, I wrote a rough draft. Many of my scenes missed a sense of place or other major element and they felt flat. I added object, wants, setting, characters, action, dialogue and climax/hook to each scene list description. Now my rough drafts set mood and build suspense.

I use a Word table, enabling me to sort, great for changing scene sequence. I color code each major character, highlighting the name in yellow in the first scene where each appears, and in hot pink for the last scene. Plot points, midpoint, firsts and lasts are highlighted in pale gray. I am visual, and this provides a snapshot of my mystery.

Samples of the condensed and detailed views follow.

Scene Summary, by Karen Heines


© 2011 Karen Phelps Heines. All Rights Reserved.



  1. Okay Karen, you’ve put us all to shame. This is remarkable. Excellent job. You’re setting a great example for me, and others to follow, by actually doing what Jack and Bob say.
    Wow! Thanks so much for sharing. Cheers, Mindy

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink
  2. Wavatar Pam wrote:

    I love charts! I love visuals! Now it’s time to learn to connect these to my writing. Thanks for the inspiration, Karen.

    Friday, February 25, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink
  3. Karen,

    Thank you for sharing your process! It’s great to hear how you moved between drafts, writing paragraphs for each scene, then writing a full draft.

    Thanks for sharing your charts, too. It’s great to get a real peek of what other techniques writers use.

    Thursday, March 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Permalink
  4. Wavatar Barbara Mertus Munyo wrote:

    I’ve never even thought about working with charts like this. Thank you so much. I am going to post this link to my FB account for other writers.

    Sunday, April 10, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

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