A System for Writing a Novel

Let’s talk about this essay here:


I like the explanation of real life cause and effect differing from cause and effect in fiction and why that is important when plotting your scenes. I think a lot of writers don’t understand this difference. I’m also a fan of more narration. However, I am glad you pointed out that Bickham’s approach doesn’t work for every story, but for a specific type of story. All in all, a really thought-provoking article.


It’s taken me a long time to get serious about writing scenes (not thinking in chapters, but in specific character goals). What sent me in this direction was reading a book by Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer. It also focuses on cause and effect. I got a lot more “practical help” from reading this book than from Scene & Structure. I didn’t much care for Mr. Bickham’s story.

I’ve been looking for scene templates to give me ideas for how to structure scenes. I found one recently I like from Abbie Emmons. I also like to use the idea Robert McKee teaches about a scene starting with a value that changes in a positive or negative way over the course of the scene.

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Great article and analysis, and well worth reading, Daniel. Thanks!

I think my only small point of difference would be in supposing an alternative explanation for some of our desire for novel-style causality: our brains' hunger for making patterns of what we see and experience.

I think it goes hand-in-hand with our love of stories. In stories, things should happen for reasons. It's fascinating that "truth is stranger than fiction" partly because of this.