Scenes play a key role in story structure. They drive your story forward and keep the reader invested in your characters and plot. Scenes are not necessarily chapters as each chapter could have several scenes in it. An example of a scene would be if a chapter opened on a scene where a couple were arguing and then one of these characters stormed out of the room. The scene has ended and the next scene has begun.
William Ryan in his book Guide to How to Write says that ‘Each scene will have its own needs from a storytelling perspective, and will have to be constructed accordingly. Some will be dramatic, some thrilling and some much quieter, focussed on improving the reader’s knowledge of the characters’ motivations and desires.’ How do we write effective scenes? What are the elements that writers need to consider when writing scenes? I have put together a list of helpful articles and podcasts for you.
This Masterclass article tells us that the beginning of the scene should have a strong hook that pulls the reader in. It gives the writer ten tips and techniques to improve the beginning of the scenes you write.
Writer’s Edit has put together a list of 6 tips to help writing scenes including highlighting the importance of creating scenes and sequels. It suggests that a scene should always be made up of a goal, conflict, and disaster, while a sequel should contain a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision. They recommend alternating between the two to keep your story moving forward.
Jane explains the importance of the scene, calling it a mini-story, a self-contained one, within the bigger story. Each scene should have purpose, deepen the characters, drive the story forward and end in a way that the reader just has to know what happens next.
Another Masterclass article but an important one. 8 elements to consider when writing scenes are listed including making sure your scene has a specific storytelling purpose, that it offers a point of view and that it contributes to your worldbuilding within your story.
Scenes serve as the framework of your story and shouldn’t be thrown together. The writer’s goal is to paint enough of a picture so your reader can see the scene as if it is on the big screen. In this article, Jerry talks the writer through an 8-step method to accomplish successful scenes.
This podcast discusses how writing and analysing scenes will help the writer with the macro and micro of your story. An example scene analysis is also given.
You can read or listen to this podcast. It discusses how to write a well-structured scene and uses an example from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.
This episode from The Creative Writer’s Toolbox talks about how a scene works when something that matters needs to change. They use an example story that contains some scenes with changes and some scenes that do not to show what a difference that makes.
I refer to William Ryan again (I am currently reading the book), and he says the ‘Writing is not an exact art; therefore, it is difficult to distil everything into a single ingredients list.’ You as the writer get to decide how to write your scenes, what to cut and what to add. Take on board advice from published authors, share your written scenes with other writers. Play around with the scenes to find out what works best for you.
I hope this week’s column has been helpful for you. If there are any particular writing topics you want me to cover, please get in touch.
(c) Lucy O’Callaghan