Posted by: anitanolan | March 23, 2010

What a Scene Should Contain (Writing in Scenes – Part II)

No matter how you write, you’ll have to break your manuscript into scenes and chapters eventually.  When you do, each scene typically contains the following:

  1. Beginning, Middle, and End
  2. Action
  3. Dialogue (usually)
  4. Conflict (trouble)
  5. Character’s Feelings (emotions)

Of course, there’s exceptions to everything, and a writer can do anything if they do it well.  A fine example is The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak, in which the scenes are sometimes nothing more than a snippet of information.  In fact, sometimes it’s hard to tell where one scene ends and another begins.

Normally, every scene should have a hook that grabs the reader’s attention and pulls them into the narrative.  Once you’ve come up with a way to catch the reader’s attention, think about the scene’s intensity.  The intensity of your book should rise as the story moves to its climax.  Try to make each problem the main character faces worse than the previous one.

Even scenes containing two friends can have some tension. Think about the Harry Potter books.  Even though Harry, Hermione and Ron are working together, they sometimes are at odds.  The tension that sometimes occurs between them keeps the reader interested, even if the tension in the larger plot is low at that point.

Make sure each scene ends with something that draws the reader into the next one.  Don’t let the scene fizzle by the character going to sleep or driving off.

Tomorrow:  Ways to End a Scene


  1. […] Anita Nolan has been doing a series on writing in scenes, with part 1 on how to write with scenes, part 2 on the elements of a scene and part 3 on scene […]

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