WHAT IS A SCENE?
A scene is described as a self-contained mini-story. Any story or novel is a series of scenes with narrative summary between. These individual scenes are built with a structure described as having a beginning, middle and end.
BEGINNING or LAUNCHING SCENES
The word beginning is misleading, as some scenes can pick up in the centre of the action or continue where others finished. Within a manuscript, a new scene is usually shown by the start of a chapter.
Scenes don’t so much begin as launch—often in the middle of an event or activity. You do not need to start a scene with an explanation or exposition, but simply with an entrance into the action. Then, by following a character’s goals and desires, you lead your reader through a setting. Show the protagonist interacting with it, and not just observing it. Engage the character’s sensory perceptions. Introduce conflict, and build the character to a high or low point. Don’t satisfy your reader’s needs at then of a scene leave them wanting to know what happens next.
Each new scene still has a responsibility to the idea or plot you started with, and that is to communicate your idea in a way that is easy for the reader and provides an experience, not a lecture. Scene beginnings should pave the way for all the consequences of the plot to unfold. Each scene start is a reintroduction, which captures the reader’s attention all over again.
To start a scene, you should ask yourself two questions:
- Where are my characters in the plot, and where did I leave them?
- What information do I need to reveal in this scene?
The sooner you start the action in a scene, the more momentum your story has, to move forward and keep the reader engaged. If you find yourself explaining an action, then you’re not demonstrating the action any longer; Keep in mind the key elements of action: time and momentum. The key to creating strong momentum is to start an action without explaining anything, by showing the action.
CREATE AN ACTION LAUNCH:
- Start your scene with some form of action, anything from an emotional outburst to a car crash.
- An action can be something as simple as somebody sipping a glass of water if it’s significant to the plot.
- Don’t have your character just thinking, get them doing something that will enhance the story plot.
WHAT SHOULD YOUR SCENE ACHIEVE?
A scene should create a series of consequences that must be dealt with or built upon in the following scene. And so, your story develops, scene by scene, as you tell a compelling story that has the dramatic power and emotional impact to your reader.
Each scene should contain real-time momentum in a combination of action, dialogue, and character interaction with her surroundings and other characters. A reader should feel as though they are right beside (or inside) the character as she experiences any number of situations and scenarios. In contrast, narrative summary—telling, lecturing, explaining, or describing—bores readers to sleep.
Your scenes can finish on a high note (a small victory for your character) or a low note (a moment of cliff-hanging suspense or uncertainty). It doesn’t matter which way it goes so long as each scene concludes by setting up future conflicts for the character(s) and creating in readers a yearning to know what happens next.
- A scene is not an opportunity to take your character on a long, leisurely detour into situations with characters that have nothing to do with the protagonist’s dramatic action goals (Scenes are not a place to explain something or to lecture to your reader (that’s a pace killer).
- Scenes are not long histories of people and places (that’s dull backstory).
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