Hard Lessons | The Writing Site of R K Athey

The Butcher Method and Scrivener

I wrote a previous article about Jim Butcher’s advice on writing. I attempted to carry out those methods in my latest story, ‘The Edge of Space’. Below are a list of my scenes and sequences. Note that this was a story I had already written. I simply added to it to cover Mr. Butcher’s advice on Scene/Sequence and Action Response.

I used Scrivener to lay out each scene matched with its sequence, color-coding them blue for scene and purple for sequence. In the document notes, I laid out the scene or sequence template. Since this was a previously written story, immediate structural problems became clear. I had almost no reaction to some of the scenes. This meant the reader had no view into Sarge’s feelings or thoughts about what was going to happen next. You can see the results below.

My Scrivener screen using the Jim Butcher method for structure

This method works! When I sent the piece off for copy-editing, the response was ‘no structural issues’; a first.

Story Question

When archeologists discover an ancient mystery on the planet of Tangar II, Sarge sets out to retrieve the artifact at the center of the mystery. But will he succeed when a Slug Syndicate ship lays first claim.

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To get to the planet and start the mission

Conflict: Sarge vs. Doc

Setback: No and Furthermore. Not only does Sarge not get to go down to the planet and start the mission, he now has to take a verbal beat down from the harbor master

 

Sequence

Emotion: That bitch

Reason/Logic: I’m trapped in an order I can’t refuse.

Reason/Reivew: It wasn’t the first time Doc burned me. I liked her as much as anyone (not that that’s saying much) but she was mean and quick to dole out punishment.

Reason/Anticipation: If I can’t blow up the station, I can at least take it over. (detail plans within)

Choice: Heads to airlock to take his beating.

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To avoid a suicide mission

Conflict: Doc and Sarge but also between Sparx and Gridder.

Setback: Sarge can’t get past the fact there is a way to succeed. The odds are many in the room won’t survive.

 

Sequence

Emotion: Frustration

Reason/Logic: Trapped again by loyalty to Doc.

Reason/Review: This is a suicide mission. There’s no way to get the artifact past the slug ship.

Reason/Anticipation: Something in the data catches Sarge’s eye. The Slug wants the Fed shuttle. Sarge wants to use it as leverage. More than leverage, a way to even the odds.

Choice: To go on the mission.

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To land the shuttle, get the item and leave.

Conflict: Sarge vs. bug drop pods

Setback: No and Furthermore: Bug drop pods show up. The Slug ship traps them in a grapple beam.

 

Sequence

Emotion: Distraught that Henry died.

Reason/Logic: Armor sensory feeds.

Reason/Review: Remembers his time as a colonist during an invasion and how he fared better than dead Henry.

Reason/Anticipation: The newbies are going to die unless something changes. If they blew the reactor they could escape but would fail the mission. Survival trumps success?

Choice: To go for the artifact.

 

 Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To destroy the Bug’s heavy artillery on the drop pods.

Conflict: Sarge vs. bugs. Sarge vs. equipment.

Setback: Yes but he’s damaged

 

Sequence

Emotion: Excitement

Reason/Logic: He’s damaged. His suit isn’t quite up to snuff

Reason/Review: Recap of how they got there.

Reason/Anticipation: Thrill of battle.

Choice: Whether to put the shuttle in danger or just go retrieve the thing. Decides on the safety of Doc and the shuttle. Leaves to get item.

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To he, his squad, Cassandra, and the artifact back into the shuttle

Conflict: Sarge vs. bugs

Setback: Yes But. Sarge loses his squad and takes damaged but gets the artifact into the shuttle.

 

Sequence

Emotion: Anger

Reason/Logic: Cassandra is at the controls, he’s injured.

Reason/Review: None really.

Reason/Anticipation: We’re gonna die

Choice: No choices and thus a weak sequel

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To get the shuttle away from the base and to the Dawn.

Conflict: Doc vs. Sarge. Sarge wants to drop the artifact

Setback: No and furthermore: Not only do they not get away but they get capture by the slug ship

 

Sequence

Emotion: Resignation

Reason/Logic: They’re trapped in the tractor beam with no way of escape.

Reason/Review: Maybe move Green Dawn stuff here.

Reason/Anticipation: We’ll be eaten by the slugs.

Choice: To blow up the ship

 

Scene

PoV: Sarge

Goal: To blow up the shuttle

Conflict: Sarge vs. Cassandra

Setback: No and furthermore: Arty blocks them from blowing up the ship. Feds arrive.

 

Sequence

Emotion: No regrets

Reason/Logic: In prison

Reason/Review: People die on the frontier but planets don’t disappear that often.

Reason/Anticipation: I’ll be executed, no way around it.

Choice: To kill Gridder before the Feds execute Sarge by airlock.

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