Scene planning is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. Characters are the heart of your story, and scenes make the heart beat.
I don't do any kind of detailed plotting ahead of time, but I know who my characters are and I have a general sense of the story, at least enough of it to write a short blurb like what you might see on a book jacket. So my scenes come to me one at a time, as they happen, though I do plan them thoroughly in my head before touching my keyboard.
We all know the basic structure of a scene: goal, conflict, disaster. To make the scene work, we set the character up to fail, or if she doesn't fail, some new complication is introduced to make her life more miserable than it already is. Donald Maas instructs us to come up worst case scenarios, but what if you were to come up with the best case scenario first? Let me explain:
I'm a big fan of the double ending, the first one coming just before the black moment. You give the character everything she wants, then slap her hands and send the hearts and flowers flying every which way but in her favor. Now think about doing this for each one of your scenes, only don't write it down. It's just for brain storming purposes. Come up with the best that can happen, think it all the way through, then take it away. You may find, as I do, that the emotional charge you get from stomping on your character's hopes and dreams is more intense than "what-iffing" how she might feel when disaster strikes. This method makes the disaster more real. If you already do this, great. I think it works extremely well.
Here's a for-instance for a scene I'm about to write in my WIP that I've only thought through via the planning method described above. My main character, Chalice, met this great guy a couple of chapters ago. He's a thief like her, and he's also bonded to a gargoyle just like she is. Talk about having something in common. Anyway, she just learned he was a Turkish warrior in the Crusades, which makes him almost a thousand years old. She's okay with that, but not with the fact he'd bargained with a demon for his immortality, plus he's a member of the magical society that has enslaved her. And the bargain he'd made marks him as a coward. The scene that just ended had him helping her survive an event that almost killed her, and now I'm in the sequel where the two of them are alone for the first time after Chalice learned about his deal with the devil. It will segue into a scene where her goal is to learn the truth from him, which she hopes will redeem him of his cowardice.
The best that can happen is that he'll tell her what she'd been told was all a lie, that he's not a member of the Vyantara (the magical society) and his immortality actually made him a hero. At last there's someone on her side, someone she can trust and believe in after years of pain and torture, corruption, hubris, trickery and cruelty. He's the one who will help free her of her bond to the vicious gargoyle she depends on to keep herself human. He's the one who will bring her the compassion and joy she'd known while growing up in the monastery. She finally has the bliss she deserves.
But as I set out to write the scene, I take away her success at reaching her goal. She learns that what she's heard is true, and her hopes are dashed again. And even more troubling news of his duplicitous nature comes to the fore, and he expects her to be okay with it? The devastation is more real now that I know, and experienced for myself, what she could have had.
This method is a twist on the traditional, and some of you may already use it, but if you haven't, give it a try. And if you have another technique, please share. Do you apply the traditional GCD (goal, conflict, disaster) to your scenes, and if not, what do you do instead?