Thursday, October 25, 2012

How do I write a scene?

How do I write a scene? … A short time ago one of our facebook friends asked me that question. She was working on revisions of her first novel and she too often felt her scenes left her feeling uninvolved, detached from her own story. I had to think about that a bit.

It is important to remember that while you get the whole picture, your reader may not. You may see your protagonist lying under a tree on a hill far from anyone or anything, while sunlight streams through the red leaves to dance on the grass around her as she ponders her situation, and her next move. But if you write, "She considered her next move lying under her favorite tree," your reader will miss the feeling of isolation.

When I think about writing a scene I actually see it in my mind as a painting hanging on the wall. I study my mind's painting for the details that are important to the painting and look for surroundings, objects and color. I listen for sounds, and wonder about smells. If people are involved I examine them, how are they standing, sitting, moving? What are their faces and actions saying?

Some scenes start wide and draw the reader in to a tight focus, like that tree on a hill far from anyone or anything. "One lone tree stood in command of the wide open hillsides. She held her thumb in front of her eyes and made the tree disappear, then ran for the tree through the emptiness that seemed everywhere. The tree grew as she ran up one hill through the valley behind it, and up the next. On and on she ran. Her heart pounded. Her feet flew. Finally she collapsed in the brown grass under that once distant tree into a tiny world all her own under its sheltering bows."
Others start tight and thrust the reader to wide open spaces. What if we reverse the scene above? "She twisted to her side and gazed out over the rolling hills. Her eyes traveled up one hill and down the next. Shocked to realize she'd run that far, she gulped a breath. No matter the direction she saw nothing but emptiness, like the emptiness in her own heart. Jumping up she cupped hands to mouth and shouted …" Get the feeling of starting tight and going wide?

Emotions and scenery weaved together will add color to the reader's eyes that you may not need detail. In fact some details might slow the reader down. Of course there are times when it's good to slow the reader down. Picture our protagonist above pulling a blade of that brown grass and examining the veins in the long withered stem.

So those are some of the ways I think when I'm writing a scene. Is it a wide or narrow scene? Do we want to move the reader from one to the other? Then of course comes your revisions and editing, like I should have done here ... But in writing a scene the first draft is where it starts ...

Hope you enjoyed this … Have a beautiful day !!


  1. Thank you for sharing! That was a good explanation I can relate to!

  2. Thank you, fj for reading and joining us here at Coffee Clutch ...

  3. Excellent advice. Hard to follow though, when caught up in the moment of dialogue.