Scene Writing Tricks

You’re drafting a scene, and it dawns on you: this scene, like about a dozen others, has your characters sitting around drinking coffee, tea or fermented yak milk. How can you move your story without making every scene resemble a TV sitcom?
Writing Tip for Today: In real life we do sit around and talk a lot. Maybe that’s why “sit” coms feature the same thing. But scenes where your characters do nothing except sit and jaw are static and can easily become dialogue heavy or veer off into talking heads. Try these things to get some action into your scenes:

  • Write like it’s a movie. If your scene drafts feature mostly dialogue, don’t worry. On revisions, weave action, sensory info and body language around the spoken parts later. Remember, for the reader to fully experience a scene, it should feel cinematic.
  • Make your POV character work. Instead of letting your viewpoint character sit and talk, make him/her get up and do something. Characters that cook, clean, build fences or some other activity during scenes are easier for the reader to imagine than a character whose only moving part is the mouth.
  • Make action purposeful. The characters should be doing things that matter to the story. If the story is about cars, let your characters do things other than drive them. Avoid having people doing random things. The reader will become confused if the action has little or nothing to do with the story goal.

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.

4 comments on “Scene Writing Tricks

  1. Excellent advice as always. Thanks.

    Just finished reading a self-published book by a friend and his protagonist did spend lots of time fixing and drinking coffee. In one exciting action scene he even washed his cup.

    Learning the craft of writing has made me a better reader, both for what works and for what doesn’t.

  2. Linda here: Thanks everyone. I hope to help writers, but the most important skill you can develop is that of being motivated to write, and writing when you aren’t motivated.

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