Award-Winning Author ~ Editor ~ Writing Instructor
Building Better Scenes
The scene, which might or might not be synonymous with a chapter, is the building block of a novel. Built correctly and put together right, effective scenes add up to compelling novels.

Here are some elements that go into well-structured scenes:

* Purpose: What do you hope to accomplish with this scene; what is the point of it? You should know that before you begin writing. A scene not only has to advance the story, it must do so in the best possible way, for the best possible reasons. Merely reflecting on character isn't enough – something has to happen. Self-indulgent meanderings that don't serve the purpose of the scene or the focus of the novel only sap momentum.

* Structure: A good scene has a beginning, a middle and an end; since it has a purpose, you must set up, develop and resolve that objective. A good scene builds to a climax. The best scenes, like the best novels, surprise us.

* Conflict: Conflict is generally the element that drives a scene, but it's important to know how it should manifest itself. Is the conflict between the characters outright, or is it hidden? Is it a struggle for dominance, or an attempt at manipulation? Ask yourself: Which character needs to win, to control the other character? Which one has the most to lose?

* Characters: Some writers will insist that no scene contain more than two characters. Two character scenes are probably the most common in mysteries and they are often the most direct – but they won't work in every situation. Why limit yourself? It is true that a scene becomes harder to write with every character you add. But the potential for the subtle shifting of relationships and multi-level conflicts are greater in scenes with more than two characters. However, with more characters comes more setup and description; if you want a taut scene, it's essential that every element you introduce serve multiple functions.

* Needless to say, you never change character POV within a scene.

* Emotion: The best scenes carry strong emotional impact. They are the scenes in which relationships are either severed, permanently changed or forged. The most effective scenes are turning points that alter the way we look at things. They carry an emotional charge that bonds us to the characters and the book, and keep us reading.

* Linking Together: Great scenes are not ends in themselves. If scenes are building blocks, then they must be fitted together in a way that best builds the novel. Good scenes add to the scenes that came before. This is where the rhythm and pace that you want for your book comes into play.The way that you put scenes together determines the manner in which your novel will proceed. Just as each scene will play out its own development, it's also a good idea to seed in elements that will result in multi-scene arcs, a larger beginning, middle and end, that will propel your story forward.

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