I like lists. I like checking boxes because it makes me feel like I've accomplished something. And I like how lists make everything nice and organized.
So here's a handy checklist from Jack M. Bickham's Scene and Structure regarding Planning and Revising Scenes for Maximum Effect. This is only part of his full list (there are 12 items in the book), but I thought they were helpful reminders for those of us who like lists.
1. Make sure the stated scene goal is clearly relevant to the story question. Spell it out.
2. Show clearly that the viewpoint character considers the scene as vitally important. Never allow a lead character to enter a scene with a lackadaisical (my all-time favorite word!) attitude.
3. Make sure you have provided enough background for the opposition character- or have him state enough motivation from the outset- to justify his opposition to the lead character in the scene. Don't just have someone be antagonistic on general principles!
And my favorite (which is actually #6 on the list):
In searching for you scene-ending disaster, don't always grab the first idea that comes to your mind. Your reader will be guessing along with you, and you don't want him to outguess you and anticipate the disaster before you give it to him. Chances are that if you made a list of six or eight possible disasters that would work, one of them well down the list from your first idea would be fresher, brighter, worse for the lead character- and not predicable by the reader. You always want the reader guessing!
That last one is my favorite because I recall reading something similar from Sue Monk Kidd (author of Secret Life of Bees). I'm paraphrasing, but she said that people are always told to go with their gut. But when you're writing you'll usually have better luck with your third (or so) idea for just the reason that Bickham pointed out above.
So what about you? Do you go with your first plot idea most of the time or do you go with an idea further down the list?