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NEW SERIES! Scene It–Introduction

Monday, February 11, 2013

I don’t even want to think about how long it’s been since I’ve done a new writing series here. But there’s one I’ve been thinking about for a while, because it seems like I keep having to answer questions that would be covered by this.

Let’s Talk About Scenes

What is a scene?

Scenes are capsules in which compelling characters undertake significant actions in a vivid and memorable way that allows the events to feel as though they’re happening in real time. When strung together, individual scenes add up to build plots and storylines.

Jordan Rosenfeld, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time, p. 5

The Basic Ingredients of a Scene
A scene includes the following basic ingredients:

  • A character or characters who are three dimensional and who are undergoing changes as each scene moves into the next.
  • A specific point of view through which the reader experiences the events of the scene
  • Something active occurring in real time (i.e., not just introspection or backstory)
  • Story development that moves your plot forward and reveals more information about your characters
  • Conflict, conflict, conflict
  • Setting and description that grounds the reader in the physical aspects of your story world
  • Some narrative/exposition—enough to get your characters where they need to go and express what’s going on inside their heads without overwhelming the reader

The main thing that makes a scene a scene is action—something needs to happen in the scene to move the plot forward in order for the scene to be relevant to the overall book. “Character development” conversations or conflicts are good—but they must move the plot forward. Otherwise, they’re stagnant and will drag the story down.

When all is said and done, scenes are the bite-sized pieces in which we tell and digest stories. But how do we make sure that they’re gourmet and not fast-food . . . or worse, inedible?

That’s what we’re going to look at in this series.

What questions do you have when it comes to how to create, format, and write individual scenes in your story? What aspects of writing would you like to see this series cover?

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Works cited:

Rosenfeld, Jordan E. Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. Cincinnati, OH: Writer’s Digest, 2008.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Monday, February 11, 2013 9:06 am

    i love your writing series so much!!! i would love if you could cover chapter breaks: how long a chapter should be, where it should break. i am writing two very distinctive p.o.v’s and while there are definitive breaks in the action as the narrative switches from one to the other, i want to make sure that the action in each chapter is realized, that i am not ending chapters too quickly or, instead, making them ramble on. i’ve read that readers have a shorter attention span and like shorter chapters— even if it means carrying specific action over into the next chapter. can you talk to this ?

    also, you’re really good at saturating action in a scene through conversation. can you speak to dialogue-driven scenes in further detail?

    Like

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