Better Scene Writing

When writers start out, we tend to tell a lot. We like to write long, inert passages with one character thinking about stuff and we love flashbacks. What’s wrong with that?
Writing Tip for Today: There’s nothing “wrong” with any approach to writing. But when it comes to engaging the reader, scene writing gives us writers a far better chance of connecting. Here are some easy ways to write better scenes:

  • It‘s a Movie! Write as if you were watching a movie unfold in your head. You’ll hear people talking, doing things and resolving conflict. The great thing about writing is that we can add sensory detail unavailable to film: smell, taste, touch. Using these concrete sensory details (CSD) helps the reader “be there.” This is what show, don’t tell really means.
  • Grind that Ax. Good stories have a character who wants something and another character (or force of nature) determined not to let that character achieve the goal. If you write a story from your life, you’ll have an easier time if there is built-in tension, conflict, drama. Few readers want to commit to a story about a walk in the park unless there’s a mugger hiding in the bushes.
  • More than Dialogue. Some writers overload scenes with dialogue, providing the spoken bits but little else. It’s fine to draft this way, but on revision, try to get all 11 elements of a scene in your work. Readers want to be immersed in your world, so give them as much pertinent info as you can.
  • Eleven Elements of a Scene Refreshed:

POV (Point of View Character)
Setting (Place)
Time
Purpose
At least one more character
Quality of Light (Overcast, dark night, bright sun)
Sight
Sounds
Taste
Touch
Smell
You may or may not use all eleven in a single scene, but try to provide as much CRITICAL info as possible.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

7 comments on “Better Scene Writing

  1. First of, love the picture! It made lol. ๐Ÿ™‚ Also love how you put the eleven points together. Quality of light is something I’ve recently started to work better on. Being an avid reader, I’ve witnessed first hand how it helps set the mode in a scene.

    It’s funny how you think of an idea and later discover that everyone is thinking it too! After I posted this: http://mautobeaperson.wordpress.com/2012/10/24/description-tricks-that-a-writer-could-learn-from-an-actor/ I later discovered it was a trend on some blogs as well. And here you are mentioning that writing tips could be learned from movies too! I guess great minds think alike after all. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Miranda, Donald Maass uses a lot of film stuff in his writing books and Story by Robert McKee is a classic. We all learn from different sources, all good. It’s true that actors can teach our characters a thing or two!
      Keep Writing,
      Linda

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