Writing riveting scenes for your book is no easy task – there are cliches to avoid, emotions that need to be felt, and a plot line to move forward. If the scenes that you have written so far seem a little lack lustre, you are not alone my friend. The ultimate goal of every scene is to make your reader itch for more, and I’m here to guide you with the information you need to achieve rich, and powerful scenes.
Scenes that make your reader feel as if they are in the story alongside your character, are effective, and full of purpose – which in turn propels your story forward every step of the way. There is a distinction between a Scene and a Summary, and you would be wise to keep this in mind before you learn anything else.
The most basic way to look at a scene, is that it should be action based. There should be dialogue happening, and you should be showing the reader exactly what is happening during this very moment. It covers a very short period of time.
“Madison took cautious steps towards her living room window, she didn’t care to step on another Lego this morning. Once she reached the window she pulled the curtains back and peered across the street, as she did every morning. “He’s still standing there, looking directly at our house. It’s really starting to freak me out Josh…”
Josh walked around the kitchen corner and into the living room, saying “Don’t worry about it so much Maddy, he’s an old man who is probably just bored. Nothing better to do with his time but stare out his front window”
Goosebumps snaked down her skin as she peeked out the window again, watching the old man across the street – who wouldn’t stop watching her. Something wasn’t right, she could feel it.”
Breaking it down into basics – a summary is the telling, instead of the showing – part of your novel. When you are writing a summary you are going through time much faster, which allows you to move your novel forward without page after page of dialogue and action. A summary can contain descriptions, explanations, and possibly some history.
“After rushing through a bowl of cereal, fighting through the brutal morning traffic, and fighting with the security guard because she forgot her ID at home – Madison just barely arrived to her 9 a.m. meeting on time.”
I Understand What a Scene Is, Now What?
I’ve been reading a book to improve my scene writing skills, and I tell you what – it’s incredible. I’m going to let you in on a few of the best things I’ve learned from this book so far. The book is called ‘Writing Deep Scenes‘ (*Affiliate link) by Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld.
Emotions – Actions – Theme
You know emotions, you feel them everyday, all day. If you want your reader to feel involved in your story than you need to make sure they can feel your characters emotions. Nothing will make a character feel more real than being emotionally exposed to the reader. Consider not only the emotions a character is feeling during a particular scene, but how the characters emotions change throughout the scenes of your story. The character you are developing should go through a transformations throughout the book, and this should be evident through the emotional responses expressed within scenes.
A character is driven to action when they have clear-cut goals. As you may have learned in school, a goal is comprised of SMART:
Create goals for your character the same way you would set goals for yourself. Instead of saying ‘I want to lose weight’, you would say, ‘I want to lose 10 lbs, within two months, by eating healthier’. Determine a clear motivation for your character by setting goals like, ‘Madison wants to find out who the old man across the street is – before Josh returns from his work conference in 3 days, by asking around town, and researching him.”, apposed to ‘Madison wants to get to the bottom of things’. By having such a specific motivation in place, the strategies and actions scenes that need to occur will become apparent.
When you hear the word ‘Theme’, perhaps you feel a bead of sweat trickle trickle down your forehead as you remember your humiliating prom, and whichever godawful theme they conjured up – Under the Sea anyone? Well calm your jets because when it comes to novel writing, themes are much more enthralling and predictable. Think betrayal – friendship – freedom. The theme of your story will be the underbelly of the whole operation, it is the mother that gives birth to the goals of your character. The theme to Madisons story is love, the over-protective, and very powerful love she has for her family – that erupts into an obsessive investigation.
What Can I Do With This Information?
Now that you know the basics about the 3 major elements needed to create scenes, you can unite them together and make your scenes compelling, and full of purpose. The best thing you can do is take what you have learned and practice writing scenes, and check them for:
- Alignment with the overall theme of your novel.
- Is there action propelling your character forward?
- Is your character expressing the proper emotions for where they are in their journey?
I have only scratched the surface of information that you can tap in order to write effective scenes. I highly recommend you buy Writing Deep Scenes: Plotting Your Story Through Action, Emotion, and Theme (*Affiliate Link). Beyond expansion information on Emotion, Action, and Theme, this book teaches you in depth about Energetic Markers, Scene Types and so much more!
I hope this post will encourage you to sit down and hammer out the best scene you have ever written. Cheers!