Friday, October 29, 2010

A Brief Lesson in Scene Writing

Raymond Carver said, “There are significant moments in everyone's day that can make literature. That's what you ought to write about."

Do your scenes captivate the reader? Are your scenes memorable? Do you weave your scenes so that they move your story forward?

A scene is written so that it seems to occur in real time as if the reader were watching and listening to it happen. It's built on talk and action and is dramatized, not described or summarized (although exposition and description exists along with action). Each scene has specific reason for occurring at the point in the story -- something needs to be proven, established, or revealed. A scene exists to enrich or reveal characters, provides information about the plot, and pushes the plot forward.

A scene contains:
• a distinct time and place
• a specific conflict
• the main character wants something
• emotional reversal
• TIP: Include a good dialogue (if necessary), tension, reactions to what is taking place or being said, movement, gestures. Try ending scenes at a cliffhanger moment or high note.


  1. Carver was such a God at making things simple. I think the key is moderation. I sometimes get blocked when I want to say too much with a few images. I'm reading a book right now, Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, which says R.U.E

    Resist the Urge to Explain.

  2. Thanx my CPs keep yelling at me to include more dialogue. I am working on it.

  3. Oh what a fabulous illustration of a perfect scene!! Oh if I could just have written "here's looking at you" and captures the expression in Sam and Elsa's eyes.. wow!!!

    Thanks for the tips on how to craft a scene. One of my biggest challenge is writing a scene in real time - I tend to get very bogged down with back stories!

    Take care

  4. Hi Ben,
    Yep! That's why I love Carver. Ooohhh, I love this R.U.E. lesson. Thanks for sharing it with us, I'll try to incorporate it in my editing.

    Hi Joanna,
    You're welcome! Dialogue is important but we have to be careful not to over do it. ;)

    Hi Old Kitty,
    I'm glad you liked the pic I chose. I love Casablanca. Writing a scene is not as easy as it seems.
    Keep on writing!

  5. These are great tips, Claudia! Another good piece of advice I heard is this: get in fast, and get out early.

  6. Hi Talli,
    I like your advice as well, ;)