Scene Setting


As an aspiring author, I love critiquing other aspiring author’s works.  Why?  Well, for one, I’d like to think I can offer constructive criticism and provide something of value so the author can improve, and, two, it helps me identify weak areas of my own writing.  Lately, I’ve run across authors who seem to struggle with scene development and that’s what I’d like to write about today.

A novel, to me, is made up of a bunch of little, mini-stories, which are all linked together by ‘bridges’ to create a plot.  These mini-stories or scenes, like the entire story, should have a beginning, a middle and an end.  If they don’t, then they should probably be eliminated or re-written.  (I have done this so many times I can’t even count them, thanks to others who have critiqued my work and pointed them out to me).

There are lots of scenes to a novel:  the opening scene, which must hook your reader, action scenes that will carry your reader through your novel and keep them engaged, exposition scenes that, well, expose information about your story such as time and place, transitioning scenes that move your characters from place to place, from conflict to conflict, and finally, the ending scene which wraps it all up and resolves the conflict, leaving the reader with a sense of completion. 

As the multiple mini-stories are vital to the telling of the whole story, so should be the mini-stories to each of your scenes.  When writing a scene, ask yourself, does it have a hook?  Does it have action?  Is something revealed?  Have I smoothly transitioned the current scene from the one before and into the one that follows? Have I settled or intensified the immediate conflict of the scene, leaving the reader with a sense of completion and a desire to continue?  If you answer ‘no’ to any of these, then it might be helpful to go back and see how you can improve the scene to make it the best it can be.  It won’t be easy because, while focusing on creating scenes, you also have to stay in character POV, stay with action verbs, watch the adverbs and adjectives, show, not tell, keep your dialogue real, create believable characters, don’t overdo settings and eliminate extraneous words, all the while staying true to yourself and your voice.  Sound daunting?  It can be but it can also be a catharsis.

Main thing – no matter what, don’t ever give up.  Keep writing.  I’ll see you again in about a week.

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