Scenes
Contributor
Written by
Catrina Barton
March 2012
Contributor
Written by
Catrina Barton
March 2012

Have you ever been told that writing things one scene at a time will make the whole novel process easier?

I remember how confusing that statement was when I first started out. I can't tell you how many times I've been told this by other writers and editors over the past few years.

So, what makes a scene a scene? That is an excellent question and one than can be very confusing, as every person has their own ideas about it and most conflict with others opinions. Today I'm going to attempt to simplify it for those of you still confused about it.

Here are a few quotes from a book I've found infinitely helpful about it.

"For one thing it takes place in real time. Your readers watch events as they unfold rather than it being described after the fact." - end quote.

So, what exactly does that mean? It means you show the action, rather then describing {aka telling} it.

Telling: She kicked her foot and spun around, walking off angry.

Showing: Layana kicked the rock, sending it across the ground with a muffled curse. Her mouth tightened into a thin line and her hands balled into fists as she spun around, and stomped away, kicking a second stone out of her path with a huff.

Scenes usually have settings as well, specific locations readers can picture." - end quote.

Now let's add that nugget of advice to the prose. Shall we?

Layana stood near the river. A branch fell from the tree, smacking her in the face and knocking her on her butt. She kicked the rock, sending it across the ground with a muffled curse. Her mouth tightened into a thin line and her hands balled into fists as she spun around, and stomped away, kicking a second stone out of her path with a huff.

Scenes also contain some action, something that happens. More often than not, what happens is dialogue between one or more characters." - end quote.

Now to add that last nugget to our prose.

Layana stood under a tree, listening to the nearby river flow and relaxed her shoulders. A branch fell from the tree smacking her in the face and knocked her onto her butt.

"Damnit!" She jumped up and kicked a small rock, sending it across the ground with a muffled curse. She watched with little satisfaction as it sunk into the water with a loud splash.

"Why can't I catch a break today?" Her mouth tightened into a thin line and her hands balled into fists as she spun around, and stomped away, kicking a second stone out of her path with a huff.

The final product transformed our first sentence into an entire scene. Hard to believe it, huh? But, it meets all of the criteria.

1.} It has a specific location: by the river.

2.} It has a specific character: Layana.

3.} It shows us what happens as the events unfold: Getting hit by a branch and growing angry enough to kick a rock and then storm off.

4.} It contains plenty of action: Jumping to her feet, kicking a stone, complaining, stomping off, ect.

5.} It also shows rather than describes her emotions. Instead of simply saying, "she walked off angry." I've shown her anger, through the tightening of her mouth, balling her fists, her huff, her curse, and her storming away.

I even added some brief dialogue, and went a step further by hinting through the dialogue at the fact that she's had a lousy day.

Three paragraphs created an entire scene. Amazing huh?

Please note that some scenes can take several pages and even a full chapter to come out right, others can be brief, yet vital to the plot, such as the one I did above.

P.S. This article is featured in a wonderful collaboration done by editors and writers here: http://thirdsundaybc.com/2012/04/15/vol-1-no-4/

Reference Material: Self Editing For Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King.

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