What is a Scene?
Just like in a theater, when the curtain rises…you see a scene. Characters are moving and talking on a stage
Act 1, Scene 1 – each scene has a beginning, middle, end.
Scene is the basic unit of a story.
The majority of every story is dramatized in scenes. So, the better you are at writing scenes, the better your story will be.
A story is like a string of pearls –the string is the story arc – each pearl is a scene.
Space between the scenes – narrative summary
Scene unfolds in real time – narrative summary condenses the time between scenes.
Three Tools to Improve Your Scenes:
1. Shape Each Scene
The wave form is found throughout nature – ocean, sound, light, all energy, breath, life. The wave is the form of a story. Begin with energy, swell to a crest, them subside and release. The wave form is also called the story arc or plot.
Each scene should take the same wave form:
• Beginning – opens with an energetic hook to captivate the reader
• Middle – complications rising to climax – energy level rises steadily – climax is the last scene of the middle section
• End brings satisfactory release or closure, sometimes introducing a hook to the next scene
2. Use the Greek Unities to Sharpen the Scene’s Focus
The Greek Unities – Aristotle
1. One place
2. One time
3. One action
One setting – may be a road or path – still one place
Bring the setting alive with description, 5 senses
Make the setting do work:
• use details to set the mood – tone
• details of setting can reveal character – a person’s home, car or workplace
Use description sparingly – description alone is static, so weave it into the action
One telling detail better than three ordinary ones
Long passages of description must be extraordinary, active, suspenseful
Know your year, season, day, hour – weather, light/dark, energy level
One main event to move the story forward
Conversation only scene – decision, secret revealed, relationship advanced, etc.
Action scene – something changes to move the story forward
Action requires Actors (one or more characters)
Otherwise – not a scene – just an image
Two or more characters – dialogue & action
One character scene – soliloquy/internal monologue – or action
Action centers on a Conflict – a struggle between opposing forces – the soul of drama
The story has a central conflict
Each scene has a smaller related conflict that moves the story forward
3 types of conflict
Character v. Character
Character v. nature or system
Character in conflict with himself.
William Faulkner: “The human heart in conflict with itself…alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about.”
Conflict creates suspense – feeling of uncertainty and tension that makes reader want to know what happens next
3. Make every scene do work for the story
1. Reveal character
2. Move the story forward
3. Develop the theme
In every scene, let the reader get to know your characters a little better
Each character has a motivating goal or intention for that scene – what he wants
Obstacles to the goal create conflict
How characters react to obstacles and conflict reveals who they are
Move the story forward
Where does the scene fall on the story arc? It must fit where it belongs and pull its weight to advance the plot.
The theme of a story is an insight about life or human nature that the writer presents to the reader. It’s the deeper meaning of a story. The story is a metaphor to express the theme – each scene elaborates the metaphor.
A Word about Exposition – facts, backstory, mini-flashback
use in small bites; don’t bog down the scene’s forward movement
A Word about Transitions – signposts for your reader
A transition may be needed at beginning of scene: Let the reader know where you are, how much time has passed
When do you decide all this about your scene?
Before, during or after – any time
Every revision – you’ll discover more
Your scene gets closer and closer to the ideal you want
Two friends are standing on a bridge
One wants to walk into town to eat supper
The other wants to hitchhike to Colorado