01 Jul 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Conflict is a key driver for scenes because it puts characters in relation – as well as in opposition – to each other.
- 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.
- Cut to the chase. Another way of putting number 6.
- 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.
- If you’re stuck on where to begin, start with in media res: in the middle of the action.
- End on a significant point in the scene to create tension or a twist or something surprising.