Making a Scene: Writing Scenes that Work

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Making a Scene: Writing Scenes that Work

writing scenes

Scenes are the most basic component of your novel, so it stands to reason that writing scenes is something you should learn to do well. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ formula to scene-writing, but there are things you can do to make your scenes more polished, interesting and, above all, useful.


Writing Scenes that Work

Yes. Sometimes writers forget that scenes are an important component in moving your plot forward. Each scene, in fact, can be considered a story unto itself. It should have a definite beginning, middle and end. There should be conflict of some kind and a specific character POV.

Let’s walk through a scene creation.

Step 1: What’s it All About?

Your first step is to understand what role your scene will play in your novel. Is it a set-up scene? A climactic scene? One that pits two characters against one another? A great way to keep you and your writing on target is to create a synopsis sentence for each scene you write. Here are some examples:

  • Introduce the town of Erewhon and John and Mary’s characters. 
  • Stuart and Miles fight over who gets to marry Jaime and become king. 
  • Langdon lies about meeting Jennifer to place suspicion on Scott, but Scott has photo evidence of the meeting. 

Having a synopsis sentence will help keep you on topic while you’re fleshing out your scene. Refer back to it often as you write. If you’re stuck, check out this link for synopsis help. It’s focused on story synopses, but the same rules apply to scenes.

Step 2: Who’s Talking?

When writing scenes it’s critical that your readers can identify the character POV easily. If you’re writing in first person or from only one POV for the entire novel, you’ll be using the same POV throughout. If, however, you’re writing in shifting third person POV, then you’ll wanting carefully consider whose head the reader’s in.

Here are a few questions to help choose the correct character when writing scenes in shifting POV:

  • Which character is the focus of the scene?
  • Who has the most to gain (or lose) from the scene’s action?
  • Which character do readers need to get to know a bit more personally?

Step 3: Conflict is King

Writing scenes without conflict will bore your reader. Really. There should be some conflict in each scene you craft. It doesn’t have to be swords clashing and guns firing conflict — it can be inner turmoil, mild disagreement between characters, or even conflict between a character and her environment.

Step 4: Beginning, Middle, End

Just like writing a paragraph, an essay, or your novel, each scene must have a beginning, middle, and end. Easy, peasy. A great way to learn to write strong scenes is to read and pick apart scenes from best-selling novels. Learn how they flow and pay attention to their beginnings and endings.

Step 5: The Extra

Writing scenes that thrill readers means putting a bit of extra effort into the crafting of it. Let your reader feel, taste, hear and smell what’s going on. Don’t leave them on the outside looking in–pull them inside the action where all the fun happens.

One caution: description is great, but like any special sauce, too much can be nauseating. Make sure your details add something to the scene and aren’t just fluff.

You’re ready to begin writing! Start with that synopsis sentence and craft a kick-butt scene around it — and then another, and another, and another. You can do this!

Homework: Write your first scene.

Next Week: POV

See you on the next page!




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