Top 10 Tips to Create Scenes or Acts in Your Story
Although stories are a collection of scenes arranged in a manner to create a storyline, each of those scenes, or acts, are stand-alone little sets of narration and dialogue. A scene doesn't end or shouldn't end immediately after the pertinent facts are shared.
Avoid leaving a scene feeling 'unfinished' or lacking by keeping in mind what each scene needs and how to determine when the scene is over. With a little care, scenes can not only manage your plot and advance the story, but help set the tone of the reading.
How do you do this? Keep these 10 tips in mind when writing each scene.
Each scene obviously has a beginning, but each scene in a book, as in a movie, will have a rise of action, level spot, and a fall. The beginning of a scene needs to establish who is in the scene and where the scene is set, and from there the characters can interact. A bunch of tagless dialogue is not a good scene.
The middle of the scene is where the 'stuff' takes place. This is the meat of your scene, so it should impart information, be engaging and natural, heighten or move the story, and keep the characters in-character.
3. Scene Endings
Just like a beginning, a scene needs finality to end it. Don't just 'stop' a scene; let it play down to a finish point. Perhaps have a character leave a room, hang up a phone, or even just turn the scene inward to a character's thoughts.
Storylines need high points. These will occur logically as your plot unfolds and the stakes are raised with increasing urgency. Peaks should come at the culmination points of previous setups. Not every scene needs a peak, but too many flat scenes together make for stagnation.
Scenes used as valleys within a storyline can be low points of even reverses of the character's progress. These setbacks can bring more challenges and character change as your protagonist digs themselves out of the valley.
Sometimes within your storyline there will be leveling-off areas. These plateaus need not be boring. Use these less than momentous scenes to add information such as history or character reflection or humor to lighten an otherwise tense story.
7. Leave in the Ugly
Although much of fiction is escapism, use gritty and stark scenes for contrast. This can be done with word choice, sentence structure, and character viewpoint as much as an unsavory location or event.
8. Don't Gloss Over the Big Scenes
Your big scenes should be just that: Big. You've written up to the moment of truth and now your readers expect a big moment. Give them that. Yes, big scenes can be intimidating to write, but write them with all the enthusiasm they deserve.
9. Time and Spacing
Sometimes in your storyline events need to have some distance from each other. Too many big scenes too close together can dilute their impact. If possible, schedule in some smaller scenes in-between to add a sense of time or spacing. If you need to, begin a scene with an actual statement, such as It wasn't until many years later that he fully appreciated what she had done.
10. Gaining Speed, Slowing Pace
Scenes have their own timing. You can achieve quicker momentum within a scene to heighten suspense or urgency with word choice, sentence length, and even sentence fragments. This is one place where an author's writing style may outweigh some of the grammar rules. Writing style can also slow the pace of a scene with a few carefully placed devices such as a touch of onomatopoeia. Read aloud these scenes to get an ear for their speed.
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