One of the things about dominant activity rather than submissive is that there is more requirement to perform activities. Certainly there are times when one can lie back and enjoying the attentions of someone's (correctly instructed) mouth but for the most part, effort and input is required. I'm currently interested in the differences between what I do when I'm being dominant as opposed to submissive, and one of those differences is about preparing for and constructing scenes.
I think it's worthwhile to take a moment and actually define what a scene is. There's a useful one here, but in this context I wanted to be more specific. I'm using the term to mean a designated length of time during which the dominant controls or performs actions upon the submissive in order to achieve a desired result. One of the key elements here are the fixed start and end points to a scene. This differentiates it from training, ongoing D/s rules or general submissive acts performed as part of an agreed relationship or "just because". Because of this, and because of the fact that scenes are generally physical in nature there is an element of performance and staging to them.
The theatrical metaphor isn't far wrong really, especially when we are talking about scenes that rely on elements such as fear play or mindfucks. The dominant can be seen as the writer, director and producer (often stage manager if a lot of kit is required) and the submissive is the actor. Like creating theatre, sometimes scene construction can be collaborative, and roles are fluid, but I'm going to stick to a breakdown of how I tackle the more "traditional" sort of scene: the pre-planned, dominant controlled activity.
The first stage is knowing specifically what I want from a scene. After all, being dominant is all about getting my way, isn't it? This can be a difficult thing, sometimes. Naturally there are broad categories: hurt people, make people cry, have orgasms, tie people up, make someone pass out, make someone unable to speak coherently for half an hour, humiliate someone. These are all outcomes or objectives, not necessarily independent - I might want to do all of these things. Some more specific than others. Although it is quite goal orientated, rather than process, I find that having an end point in mind helps me think about how to get there.
Oftentimes, who I want goes hand in hand with the what. Although there are certain themes that run through my desire different people will inspire me to do different things, then there are package deals such as being approached by a couple to play with one or the other of them. Usually a particular form of play will be the lynch pin for the activity, which then gives a framework for the scene. Other times, it's less clear, I might know who I want but not what I want to do with them, other times the reverse is true - I have a specific activity in mind but no-one to put in the gap, although this is much less common with than when I was looking for submission: I'm finding that my dominant side focuses more on the person, who they are and what makes them tick, whereas my submissive side sought particular experiences and situations. A good illustration is pet play. As a submissive, I searched for particular people who had the skills to deliver pony play whereas now I look at someone and go "ah, puppy!"
Once I know roughly what I want to achieve and who I'm doing it with I can gather the information required to plan the scene itself. I operate a pincer movement of meeting in person and exchanging notes. I like email, because I can refer to it later, but I also make sure to meet up with them in person at least once. I like asking people about themselves and watching how they react, especially if they are shy, or squirm at certain points. It's a good indicator of how they really feel. Text can sometimes let people be more forthcoming, and gives them time to think which is also good as it helps with anticipation.
Then to the plan. I am a natural planner. I like to have the reassurance of knowing what I'm going to do beforehand. This gives me a roadmap if I suddenly have a mental (or physical) block and it also allows me to enjoy the scene more because I'm not thinking about what to do next. I quite enjoy the planning process, of preparing a scene that is just right for someone. I don't usually go into great detail, I can have a picture of what the scene looks like in my mind or some words, or even just a gut feeling of what might work in order to deliver the physical and emotional response I want to achieve. I do jot ideas down though, and have recently purchased a "little red book" in which to put my nasty little scribbles. It's a good way to amuse myself on a tube journey, especially if I suspect other commuters of peeking.
Being well-prepared gives me confidence in the delivery and confidence is key to my experience of dominance. To be in charge, you need to be sure of yourself and the person under your control. This links into the final, and important factor in doing a scene: delivering the goods. This is probably extremely obvious but one of the major differences in being dominant as opposed to submissive is that you actually need to know how to do things. All kinds of things, as it turns out. You need the knowledge and physical ability. Rope does not magically tie people up, electricity requires common sense and psychological tricks need an understanding of how people think and behave. First aid and suchlike is always useful.
Here, it's important to underline the difference between dominant desire and toppy desire, I'm finding more and more than labels fluctuate and are only useful as the starting point of a conversation however I am generally more interested in domination than topping - to me it's about control and power exchange rather than a thrill from physical activity. I like both, just to be clear, but I like domination more. The activities and "tricks of the trade" are sometimes enjoyable in and of themselves - I find dripping candlewax on bare skin rather entertaining, for example, but they are more enjoyable because of the way they make people feel and think.
There are clearly multiple ways to deliver certain desired outcomes, depending on the situation and person in question - I can hurt someone in many different ways but fundamentally, what I know how to do will impact on what I am able to deliver. Certainly what I enjoy doing will determine the sort of scenes I do, additionally what the submissive enjoys (or hates) will be a factor: if spanking for example really turns them on then that can be something that in turn stimulates my desire, if only because I can use it to control them in a carrot and stick fashion.
Submission was very much a process of learning about myself, my body and my own reactions, I think that dominance will be more about learning how to do things to other people's bodies and controlling their reactions.