10 ways to sharpen your scenes - Claire Scobie
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10 ways to sharpen your scenes

10 ways to sharpen your scenes

Scenes are what make writing visual. They create a moment-by-moment experience for the reader. Here are 10 ways to make yours work harder.

clapperboard on shiny background

  1. Follow the screenwriter’s mantra: arrive late and leave early. This means you start the scene with the action not the lead up and you end crisply.
  2. Link scenes together with a narrative bridge. This is a way to run a number of short scenes together as a sequence where you have just enough narration between them to advance to the next moment.
  3. There is no set formula on how many scenes to have per chapter. But two or three scenes, about 2-3000 words each, isn’t uncommon.
  4. Always look for how your scenes advance the story and reach the point or mini-climax about half- to two-thirds of the way through.
  5. Conflict is a key driver for scenes because it puts characters in relation – as well as in opposition – to each other.
  6. Avoid the long runway: this is normally at the beginning of your story where you include lots of backstory or childhood stuff that isn’t relevant and weighs your scenes down.
  7. Cut to the chase. Another way of putting number 6.
  8. Be careful of unintentional red herrings If you draw attention to the pink scarf your protagonist is wearing once, then twice, then again, the reader will think you’re flagging it for a purpose.
  9. If you’re stuck on where to begin, start with in media res: in the middle of the action.
  10. End on a significant point in the scene to create tension or a twist or something surprising.

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