The whole story arc, the action, it’s characters, and its narrative, is an intertwined series of scenes that build the story.
If a writer should focus on one thing only, when their story lags, they should turn their attention to what’s been happening in their scenes.
A short story, or long story, has a beginning, middle, and an end. This we know. It’s important to bear this in mind when we plan and write.
If you can learn to focus on scenes when you write, your story telling skills will increase tenfold.
Writing scenes is an art that needs constant practice. When you practise writing scenes that encompass good dialogue, fear and danger, threats of loss through theft, violence, all in the face of a character who is determined to get what she wants, at all costs, then you are building your writing chops.
The scene is a focal point. So, the writer must also be fully engaged with the writing during a scene. And know exactly what the purpose of the scene is.
It’s always up to you if you decide the scene focal point is about character, or on giving the reader more information about the storyline, or if it’s all about shifting the story along into a new phase.
It should always only have one purpose.
A scene can be broken down into a set of characters in a time frame, in a place or situation that they can’t leave before the scene is resolved.
A scene broken down looks like the following:
- The Set-up
- The Confrontation
- The Resolution
A good scene feels like the characters are in a locked room. They must firstly talk it out and resolve a problem, before they move on with the story. That’s part of the set-up.
There must be an immediate conflict, based on character desire, that creates confrontation between two or more characters.
The dialogue leads both parties to make decisions, and act on those decisions, which creates a resolution in a scene.
Hopefully, the resolution created through cause and effect in the scenes’ dialogue and action, will lead the character to the point where they are forced into a new situation that furthers the story, or reveals a new development in the character that the reader can relate to.
If character develops through a scene, then they will be empowered to take action in a fresh way that leads along a better path of resolution.
The time frame in a scene creates a feeling of tension that keeps a reader on the edge of their seat. They know that the character must do something, say something, meaning that they take action.
If your character takes action, she commits herself to something that wasn’t there before. It was revealed and created during the scene. Now, she acts instead of reacts.
Your whole story should have a goal. The character must want something. During each scene, that need, the basic goal, or driving force, must be present to create the purpose of a scene.
The goal can be expressed through dialogue, physical action, or suspense caused by a character under pressure.
Two people shooting it out on the street is as much conflict, as is two people disputing something with dialogue, in order to convince each other they are right.
In each scenario, there will be a winner and a loser. The loser scampers away, the winner takes further action.
The pressure can come through another character, usually the antagonist or his agents, controlling circumstances.
Pressure can be caused by the knowledge that a clock is ticking, and if the protagonist doesn’t make decision, take action, or both before noon, they will be responsible for the downfall of an innocent victim — or something similar.
Scenes can become complex, and the more so, the more deep thinking is required from the writer. Sometimes, I’ll take forever to get past a scene in one of my short stories.
A short story is as important in the writing and construction, as any novel length work. So, I put my all into each scene.
Action movies have a lot of ticking clocks, bombs, and devices that are set to go-off at a certain time. This works well in Hollywood. The Hollywood audience watches with an already primed set of emotions that they want satisfied.
It primes them for more and more of the same.
As a writer, you should take a risk and get creative. If you do, you’ll discover how deep you can go with scene writing. You’ll make new discoveries that take your writing to higher levels.
The ability to write scenes that surprise readers is a skill set that a writer should strive for. If you can write a good scene, then it’ll show up all the way through your work. Short story, or novel.