Building Bolder Scenes

Vivid Scenes that Bring Your Story to Life

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Let me guess: You're here because you’re hearing voices in your head. You’re imagining things. You’re envisioning people and places… that don’t exist.


No, you’re not crazy. You’re creative. You’re imagining a scene from that story that won’t let you go. Maybe it’s playing out in your mind like a TV episode. Maybe you can even visualize the characters like you’re watching them on a movie screen. You just have to … write it down. That’s the hard part of not-crazy-creative—Making the imaginary real there on the page.

All I know is—you’re trying to bring to life the people and events and ideas in your story. That’s great, because scenes are how we writers connect with the audience. Scenes—those slices of story—are what the audience will remember long after they’ve forgotten your plot twists and your character names. That’s because—at their best-- scenes are 3-dimensional experiences. You’re wanting them to be experienced, not just read.

You’re a reader yourself, right? And you’ve probably had the disappointment of putting down a book after the first few chapters, because it's not nearly as interesting as the cover or blurb made it sound. What went wrong? It's simple: the author wasn't designing for drama.

That’s what you want, isn’t it? To design for drama. To keep your audience engrossed from moment to moment, chapter to chapter, all the way through to The End-- you need essential elements of drama. And that drama is embodied in your scenes.

But that’s not going to happen for the audience if those voices, those visions, just stay in your head. You have to get them down on the page or the screen to be EXPERIENCED by the audience.

And that’s what this course Building Bolder Scenes is all about.

You're not crazy! And you're not alone.

I'm Alicia Rasley, a novelist and writing teacher. I know what it's like to be preoccupied with a story idea. When I get the idea for a story, I can't stop thinking about it. I even dream about it!

I speculate about the characters and their motives and past. I draw maps of the story setting. I try to plot out the story events so I can figure out how it all starts and ends. I guess you can say I get obsessed with creating an entire story out of just an idea.

This sense of being preoccupied-- even "occupied"-- by a story inspired me to write an essay about this weird experience of having a story take over your brain: Multiplicity. Read it and see if you're having a similar experience with your attention being taken over by your own imagination and this story that won't let you go.

We're Not Crazy! We're Creative.

What I have learned from years of writing and editing and teaching fiction is... we're not crazy. We're creative. We're imagining characters and events-- creating something out of nothing. Some of us are always inventing scenes and conversations and setting description and character history in our heads—the whole Game-of-Thrones-level of worldbuilding.

And the next step is to take that story idea and develop it-- design a strong plot structure and build powerful events and intriguing characters. I’ve got a course for that! The Plot Blueprint course takes you all the way through the process of plotting the three acts and nine turning points of the story, and if you want to get that out of the way first, check out that course.

Maybe you already have the story plotted, or maybe you don’t want to outline it yet. Maybe you just want to plunge in first and delve right into writing up some of the great events and intriguing characters who already exist in your mind.


Have you ever had that experience where you imagine a scene—your characters involved in some exciting event—and it feels like it’s happening right in front of you, or even like it’s happening to you? And then you run for the notebook or computer and try to write it down in all its glorious HERE-NESS… and you can’t. It feels like you’re writing through sludge. Have you experienced that?

Well, this course can help you capture that lightning of a scene—by giving you clear guidance in building the scene and then writing it with prose that inspires the audience’s imagination.


That’s what Building Bolder Scenes will help you do-- transform those voices and visions in your head into living, breathing experiences for you and the audience. It’s magic, really, that we can create experiences like these just out of words and sentences. But it’s accessible magic, and I can teach you how to use it.

In this course, we'll work through the structure of a scene, from intriguing beginning to surprising ending. You’ll learn to give your character a specific goal for this scene, create conflict in the middle, and lead up to a disaster or cliffhanger at the end—and transition then into the next scene.

Along the way, we’ll also work on the essential design elements of a scene:

  • Character point of view (Who are we this time?)
  • Setting (Where and when are we?)
  • Theme and motif (What’s the point?)
  • Dialogue (What are you talking about?)
  • Emotion (without purple prose!)
  • Comedy/Suspense (They’re sort of the same thing—same structure at least!)
  • Character point of view (Who are we this time?)
  • Setting (Where and when are we?)
  • Theme and motif (What’s the point?)
  • Dialogue (What are you talking about?)
  • Emotion (without purple prose!)
  • Comedy/Suspense (They’re sort of the same thing—same structure at least!)

Of course, scenes aren’t just built of characters and events. The real building blocks are the paragraphs and sentences and words, and we’ll really get into those in this course—how you can paragraph with purpose, how you can twist sentences to create different reactions, how you can choose just the right word to make just the right experience.

When you get done with the course, you’ll feel confident about your scene structure and design skills, and have new strategies for incorporating setting, character journey, and theme! You’ll also get some practical and immediate tactics for improving the flow of your paragraphs and sentences, so that the reader will get to experience, not just read, the scene.

You'll avoid the waste of time and creativity because you'll be designing each scene with a plan, and with the expert guidance of Alicia, a master writing teacher with years of experience in publishing and editing.

You can do this.

You can design a dramatic scene that advances the plot, develops the characters, and engages the audience. You have the idea, and you need a plan, a blueprint, to build that idea into an actual story scene. That's where the Building Bolder Scenes Course can help:

Through the four modules, each with several in-depth lessons, you'll be able to break the scene into three main acts, design the character’s scene goal, center on the main event, and then build to a surprise or disaster at the end. Most of all, you’ll learn some strong but simple techniques to bring the scene alive for the audience, to guide them to feeling and thinking along with the characters- to make this scene the intense experience they’ll remember for a long time.

Coaching and Connection

And you won't be left there all alone with your idea and your characters! You'll be able to take advantage of constant interaction with Alicia and her team. Along with the course come four 30-minute one-on-one coaching calls with Alicia, where you can get immediate and in-depth help on any aspect of scene-building and characterization process. You can even schedule them for after you finish each module, so we can brainstorm off what you've been working on.

Writing is often such a solitary activity! But in this Building Bolder Scenes course, you don't have to be alone with your thoughts and questions. You can connect with other writers and share your experience and understandings.

And you'll have time to discuss your own story with Alicia, who with her years of experience as an author and editor can quickly pinpoint problems and offer solutions.

You can do it—build that scene and intensify the experience -- and we can help!

Over the years, I have taken many courses and workshops and worked with many agents and editors to grow my craft, and Alicia's joyful and smart approach definitely stands out. She is unflinchingly supportive and excited, as she zooms right in on the most important issues in the story that need development. She helps you see all the elements of storytelling such as plot, characters, and setting together as one. The advice she gave me over phone and email propelled my skills to another level quickly and efficiently. Katia Raina-


So ... interested? Here's how we'll get to work on building your bold scenes:

Four modules will you through the entire process of imagining, structuring, and designing your scene through the character, setting, and central event, and help you then create the experience with words and paragraphs.

Module 1: Scene Basics – Scene Selection, Structure, Sequence

Lesson 1: Inside and Outside Scenes

Here we’ll discuss the purpose of the scene within the overall story.

Lesson 2: The 9 Major Turning Point Scenes

These are the big scenes that serve as the pillars of your plot, and we’ll talk about how each might be developed.

Lesson 3: The Three S’s of Scenes - Selection, Structure, Sequence

Here we’ll discuss how you can select the events of this scene, and how to embed story elements into this scene’s “mini-story”.

Lesson 4: 3-act Structure to Organize Scenes

Just like your overall story, a scene can be broken into 3 acts, and we’ll discuss how to structure those three parts for greatest drama.

Lesson 5: Sequence Scenes to Build a Theme

Your story probably has (or will have!) a theme or overall message. We’ll talk about how this scene can help contribute to that theme and deepen the experience.

MODULE 2: Scene Design – Designing Scenes from the Inside Out

Lesson 1: Scene Purpose-

If you know ahead of time what you want to accomplish in this scene, you can design the scene to achieve that!

Lesson 2: Central Character and Scene Goal

This lesson can help you center on a character and that character’s scene goal to start the scene off with purpose.

Lesson 3: Rising Action and Conflict in the Middle

The middle of the scene is where the action and conflict rise as the character strives to get the goal. Here you can learn how to define the conflict and use it to power the character forward.

Lesson 4: The End

What happens in the end of the scene? A surprise or disaster—something disruptive that forces the audience into the next scene. Here you can determine that ending event and also—what happens to the character’s goal.

Module 3- Scene Propulsion: Openings and Endings and CHOICES

Lesson 1: Point of View in Scenes- Who Are You?

The “POV character” is the one who experiences the events of the scene for the audience. This lesson will go over the major point-of-view approaches and how to maximize your chosen approach in this scene.

Lesson 2: Setting in Scenes- The Where and When

An essential element to make the scene come to life is the setting—the time and place. Here you’ll learn how to integrate the setting into the action and mood of the scene.

Lesson 3: Opening the Scene with Intent

Here we’ll dive deeper into the all-important scene opening, including the first sentence and first paragraph, which are often so hard to get written!

Lesson 4: Scene Middles: Continuity and Transition

Another deep dive—this time into the middle, where you’ll learn how to escalate the tension and emotion with the Magic Rule of 3.

Lesson 5: Scene Endings- Crisis and Culmination

The ending doesn’t have to be a cliffhanger to be exciting and propulsive. We’ll discuss how to craft the ending to complete the questions set up in the opening, and yet leave something unresolved to impel the audience to read into the next scene.

Module 4: Inside Scenes: Presentation and Prose

Lesson 1: Dynamic Dialogue

Here’s a sharp lesson in how to create conversations that change the plot and change the characters, and yet sounds authentic and vivid.

Lesson 2: Emotion

Alicia's maxim: “If the character cries, the audience doesn’t have to.” Here we’ll discuss how to use restrained prose and physical “language” to make the audience feel.

Lesson 3: Comedy (and also Suspense, which is practically the same thing!)

Comedy and suspense might seem opposites, but in terms of scene design, they’re very close. Both depend on postponement and anticipation. In this lesson, you’ll learn some practical techniques to create dread and amusement through design and detail.

Lesson 4: Paragraphing

Paragraphs are kind of the stepchild of prose—no one pays them much mind… except for Alicia! Here you’ll learn how to use paragraphing to create unified experience of the scene and supple flow from one moment to the next.

Lesson 5: Sentencing

Yes, we’ll end up with those very basic building blocks of scenes—the sentences! We discuss how to construct sentences that replicate the action of the scene and the emotion of the characters. You’ll end up with useful techniques you can use to revise the scene. And I might sneak in a few (fun!) grammar lessons. You will be encouraged to contact me with knotty sentence issues.

Along the way, in each lesson, we’ll have exercises and assignments so you can immediately apply each aspect to your own scene. You will be able to fill out concise workbooks for each module, so that you’ll have a written record of your insights and planning to consult as you write the scene.

The Building Bolder Scenes classroom will also provide you with a library of great resources: Articles and books about character point of view, scene-building checklists, sample scene outlines, lists of helpful links, blog posts about writing and editing… I’ve been writing about writing for years, and I have a lot of information to share!

You get permanent access, by the way. In fact, when you decide you want to write another story, you’ll be able to work through those four modules again! (I bet it will be a breeze the second time with all your new skills and insights.)

You’ll get invited to my special bonus “revision sessions,” a small-group experience that can help you get in touch with your own scene vision and learn how to revise the prose to get there. Here’s what we do—4 writers, 2 pages each. I go through each passage, revising as the super-obsessive (but compassionate!) reviser I am. (I revise my own scenes incessantly, and I’ve edited dozens of stories, so I have a lot of experience.)

The difference between me and an outside editor is, I will explain exactly why I suggest a change… and I’ll also ask you what you want this sentence or paragraph to be. That is, I’ll help you learn to take your voice and vision and make sure they come to life on the page. These free sessions can be really transformative as they give you a different approach to your own prose, and you’ll come out with a better understanding of how you can wrestle sentences into the meaning you mean.

Flaubert's revisions on the manuscript of Madame Bovary

And most important, maybe, will be the four coaching calls! You can talk directly with me at any point, especially when you want to discuss possibilities for a particular scene or character change. I will give affirmative, useful suggestions to help guide you to just the right decisions that will make your scene more deep and dramatic. I can also help you determine your story theme and how to develop that in this particular scene.

Writing is so often a solitary process. But here, you won’t be alone! There’s nothing so fun as letting your imagination grow and explore, especially with other writers. So what do you think? Are you ready to get started on taking that idea and building a story from it?

When you’re done with the Building Bolder Scenes course, here’s what you’ll have:

  • A complete 3-part scene outline with a strong start leading to a dramatic ending.
  • Meaningful events along the way that keep the audience intrigued and involved.
  • Deep and active characters who have good reasons to act and react to those events.
  • A vivid setting that adds depth and texture to the scene.
  • Connections between this scene and the character journey and story theme.
  • Dynamic dialogue between your characters that causes action and change.
  • New skills for designing scenes and focusing characters that can be used with future stories.
  • Interaction with an experienced and positive story coach (me) who will focus directly and personally with you and your story.

Come join us! We’ll have fun along the way, and in the end, you’ll have that plot you’ve been thinking about, and you will be able to write and revise a strong and dramatic story.

Building a scene is like building a house: You need tools. And you'll find plenty of tools here in the Building Bolder Scenes course. So let’s go over these tools one more time.

When you enroll in the course, you'll get access to all the modules and extras in the classroom.

But that's not all. You'll also be able to use a library of articles I've written about scene building and design.

I'll also send you memos about how to solve some structure and design issues that we encounter while plotting our stories and writing our scenes.

You'll also be able to listen to the Plot Blueprint podcast, where we discuss in depth some interesting aspect of story, like "ambiguous endings" and "villains."

And to help you understand the Building Bolder Scene lessons, you'll be able to watch clips of Casablanca ("The Nine Turning Points") and The Godfather ("The Character Journey") with podcast commentary.

Then when you have the scene written, partly or fully, you’ll be able to join in on one of my famous Revision Bonus sessions, where I’ll work personally with each writer in a small group to edit a passage—and explain each and every suggested revision. You’ll get great ideas on how to revise your own prose to make it match your voice and vision.

And finally, we can stay in constant contact! Don't forget about the four coaching calls, just you and me talking through any scene problems you encounter, or brainstorming events and character actions, and even solving any grammar problems you encounter!

This adds up to a comprehensive course that will take you all the way from those inside voices and visions to a fully experienced scene-- adding depth and drama at every point!

Are you ready to plunge in and design and write the scenes you’ve been imagining? Here’s your chance. Just click the Enroll button to see the payment options. I hope to see you soon!

Great deal to guide you through plotting AND drafting your story and scenes! You can get a "bundle" of the Plot Blueprint Course and Building Bolder Scenes for $100 off. Here's the link;

Plot Blueprint AND Building Bolder Scenes with Alicia Rasley

Your Instructor

Alicia Rasley
Alicia Rasley

Hi, I'm Alicia Rasley, and when it comes to writing stories, I've about done it all. You know that Frank Sinatra song? "I've been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king." Well, I've been a writer, a winner, an editor, a sinner, a leader, a reader, a professor and a pupil....

Okay, I can't think of any better alliteration or rhymes. You get the idea. With varying degrees of success and luck, I've experienced a lot in writing and teaching writing. And now I am sharing that hard-won wisdom with newer writers-- writers like you who might not want to spend twenty years in the school of hard knocks before writing a successful story. I attended that Hard Knocks University, and I have the blood-spattered diploma. You don't have to, because I'm going to help you learn in a few weeks the most important elements of crafting a good story: The structure that supports and develops the story-- the plot/character framework. The characters' journeys. The bold and vivid scene design. The dynamics of dialogue.

Of all those different roles, I think what taught me the most about the importance of story structure was the editing. I remember sitting at a desk surrounded by piles of manuscripts submitted for -- well, actually, the submissions were all electronic by then, so I was surrounded by piles of pixels. But these were pixels that added up to stories created with love and suffering by dedicated and determined writers.

As I read the pages, I could tell how much pain and joy went into writing these stories. Those writers had put their minds and hearts into their stories, struggling over every scene and character. And I wanted to help each and every one of them make those stories better.

But there I was, representing the publisher. My job, basically, was to reject-- to reject every submission except the very few who got it all right-- the plot, the characterization, the theme... the VOICE.

So often I had to write a rejection letter to authors, saying the plot was intriguing and the characters were interesting, but that the scenes were uninspired and the voice was generic.(I usually tried to make the tone nicer than that. :) The worst part was, when I told them the scenes and voice weren't good enough, I couldn't take the time to tell them how to add energy and individuality.

My job, sadly, was mostly to swiftly read a plot synopsis and first three chapters, and then write a kind note saying, "Sorry, this isn't the sort of story we're looking for." I might even add, meaning to be helpful, "You might consider working with an editor or critique group to help with your sentences and scenes."

I know... that wasn't much help. Editors will edit and critique groups will critique... but there's a long step between "this is boring" to "this is how to make it interesting." And I know many writers don't want their stories FIXED by someone else. They want to learn how to write and revise their story so that it matches their vision and sounds like their voice.

Now I'm a pretty experienced editor and critiquer. I have studied prose and poetry and fiction and drama, and I bring those analytical skills to editing manuscripts and teaching grammar and style. But what even I can't do is make the story sound like YOU.

What I can do is go through a manuscript and teach a writer strategies for analyzing what's there and how to get from there to what it should be-- how it should SOUND to be in your voice.

Wouldn't you know it... once I could add "bestseller" and "award-winner" to my name, other writers wanted to discuss plotting with me and to ask me questions. So I started a blog with my managing editor Theresa Stevens (nothing ever dies on the internet-- it's still there, long after we've both gone back to teaching and writing: where we'd explore major writing questions ("how do I keep the middle of the story from sagging?") to minor editing issues (you should read our long-running rant stream about dangling participles!).

During this time, I was writing about writing for magazines and book publishers, and I gathered many of the articles on my Story Journey website. (Okay, it took awhile, as I had to figure out WordPress first. Okay, I still haven't figured out WordPress. But I did archive a lot of articles there! I started a new blog too, focused more on plotting than editing-- the Plot Blueprint blog-

Enough bragging. Point is, you don't have to do what I did. You don't have to spent two decades writing and struggling and being rejected and studying and experimenting and learning from failure and success and spending big money on writing books and writing conferences. I've already done that. And I have gathered all my knowledge about scenes and prose and voice and can help you apply that to your very own scenes.

And with the magic of the internet, I can sit here in placid Indiana, and you can be wherever more interesting place you are, and we can work through your scenes together. It will be fun, and it will be fulfilling. I love helping other people with their stories (so much easier than writing my own <G>), and I'd love to explore with you.

What do you say? Would you like the benefit of my years of toil, blood, sweat, rejection, rejecting, success, failure, thinking, learning, teaching? Would you like to work with a "a writer, a winner, an editor, a sinner, a leader, a reader, a professor and a pupil"? Well, you're in the right place. Let's get going!

Course Curriculum

Meet Alicia and learn about the Building Bolder Scenes course

Frequently Asked Questions

When does the course start and finish?
The course starts now and never ends! It is a completely self-paced online course - you decide when you start and when you finish.
How long do I have access to the course?
How does lifetime access sound? After enrolling, you have unlimited access to this course for as long as you like - across any and all devices you own.
What if I am unhappy with the course?
We would never want you to be unhappy! If you are unsatisfied with your purchase, contact us in the first 30 days and we will give you a full refund.
If I like the course, can I take other courses from the Story Blueprint school?
Yes, we'll be constantly adding new courses in more advanced writing topics, like: •Dynamic Dialogue • Point of View and Your Characters •The Plot Blueprint (This is already available!) • Making Meaning with a Story Theme • Finding and Refining Your Vivid Voice And I'll also be running small-group masterminds to get that scene written and revised! I will also be taking on a few clients who want specialized and individualized coaching to write, revise, finish, and/or deepen a story. So there will be plenty of options for more learning!
I'm not at all confident about my grammar and punctuation and all that. Will that be a problem?
No, that won't be a problem. I've taught college freshmen for years and years, and believe me, I've dealt with grammar difficulties that completely transcend yours. :) There's no shame here. We're all life-long learners. And the Building Bolder Scenes course has several lessons about the mechanics of prose. If you'd like to improve your prose quickly, however, we can schedule a coaching session where I work through a few pages of your writing, diagnosing and showing you how to fix problems. I also do occasional "Revision Bonus Sessions" where I edit the works of a small group onscreen, so I can explain why I suggest these revisions. Imagination is what's important at this point. You can always hire an editor... but you can't buy an imagination. That's something you already have, fortunately!
English is not my native language. Will that be a problem?
Most of the lessons are spoken and in English, over English slides. So if you're basically fluent in English, you should do well. (I work with many ESL writers, and let me just promise you, I know your English is much better than my French. :) If you get into the class and think it won't work for you, you can get a full refund within 20 days of enrolling. You might benefit more from one-on-one coaching, and if so, let's talk about that.

I hope you join us in the Building Bolder Scenes course! You can get started anytime, but first, be sure to take the Welcome Quiz. (It's not really a quiz! It's just a way to let us know what kind of story you're working on and what you're interested in learning first.) That way we can better individualize the coaching and connection elements of the course for you.

Be sure and email us at [email protected] if you have any trouble!

Get started now!