Writing Scene-by-Scene

Whether you’re writing a novel, novella, or short story, you write in scenes.  If you’re writing a super short story which often one scene long, this concept still applies.

Common scenes: An opening scene, a conclusion scene, a flashback scene, a fight scene, a restitution scene.  Scenes compose the building blocks, the steps of the grand staircase that make a story and once you feel comfortable with the basics of grammar and words, you write with scenes.

Scenes grow into chapters, and chapters into books.  Knowing the purpose of your scene and how it ties into the scene before and the scene after will beef up your focus and your writing prowess.

For example, in my work in progress, Forecast, my first scene is a prologue about a forbidden object being buried the shadow of an empty house.  The next scene shows two twin siblings flying out for a vacation to stay at this same house.  The scene after that is a taxi ride in which the cabbie takes one look at Calvin, one of the twins, and tells him that he’s identical to his grandfather, the famous owner of the house that Calvin and his sister Cleo are about to visit.

The key to writing good clear scenes is to write them with purpose.  Have a mission in mind before your pen hits the paper.

If I were gathering my wits before I wrote the opening scene to Forecast, it might look like this: This scene is about the burial of the key and its powerful effect on Joseph and Hazel.  Joseph and Hazel are twin siblings, and Hazel is the mother of Calvin and Cleo, our twin heroes who appear in the scene that follows.

To write the next scene, I springboard off of the ominous dread that I built in my first scene.  This scene is about Calvin’s desire to get away from home and escape his father’s shadow and everything that reminds him of family. 

To prepare for the scene in which Calvin and Cleo talk to the cabbie who is driving them to Humboldt Manor, I would write: This scene is about Calvin’s strong physical resemblance to his deceased grandfather Percy Humboldt, and  hints at the mysterious fame his grandfather enjoyed while he lived.

If you have a clear, simple purpose in mind for each scene, you will be able to craft segments of story that have a clear direction.  And when you string them all together, they will fit.  This doesn’t mean you won’t experience spontaneity, such as the wonderful humor of a joke when a character gets sarcastic.

It simply give you direction, and it’s very difficult to write well without it.

A few things to clarify:  Characterization is not a mission for a scene.  The way a character thinks, behaves and reacts during a scene’s action is his characterization.  Exposition is not a mission for a scene, but exposition may happen in a scene in which a character is trying to distract his listeners with a story.

Start your scenes with the line: This scene is about… or make a list of goals that you want for the scene right before you write it.  You will be surprised by how much faster the scene slips out of your mind and onto your paper, and by how little you have to wander to get where you’re going.

I’ve adapted to this scene-writing habit over the past eight months and it’s been working great for me.  Do you have a different scene-writing technique?  Please share! 🙂


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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Great tips and information , I m sure going to use them in my next short story
    thanks for the tips

  2. I m sure , I will link to your post as it a great post

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