5 Things To Know When Writing Your Scene

Scene by scene the story unfolds.
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Ever since I took Save the Cat Breaking the Beat Sheet, I’ve been noodling over scenes. Specifically, I’ve been noodling over what a scene is and what it has to have. I think that part of the reason for this is I have a love/hate relationship with scenes and it all starts with the definition.

At its most basic, a scene is a story telling unit.  

Is that not the worst defiition you have ever heard? But that means that the first thing you need to know about a scene is what it is. Really.

A Scene Is

A scene is a combination of character, setting, activity, and dialogue. My opening scene in Air Stream is the Air Stream reactivating. That’s the setting and the activity. None of my characters are present yet so there is no dialogue. As soon as my first character enters, it is a whole new scene because she is driving the action. And that leads us to. . .

A Scene Is an Action or Activity with a Purpose

Something has to happen in each scene. It might be a romantic scene. It might be a tense, dramatic scene, but something happens. What happens is generally based on your character’s goal. Your character wants X or is trying to accomplish Y. Then something gets in the way or otherwise messes up this goal. During the course of this activity, three things happen. . .

Something is Revealed

There is always backstory. There is always something your character is hiding or discovering. Bit by bit this information is revealed throughout your story.

The Character Develops

At the beginning of your story, your character presents herself as she wants to be known. But there are things she is hiding. Each scene must test your character, showing her flaws and the real HER that she doesn’t always want others to see.

The World Develops

Just as your character develops in the eyes of your readers, so does your world. You can’t reveal everything about your story world within the first fives pages. Well, you can, but info-dumps don’t work. So this information must also be shared bit by bit.

The a look at a book you love. Pick several scenes spread throughout the book and see how the author accomplishes these various things all within the scenes that make up the story.

I have so much to get done but I’m really jazzed about it!

–SueBE