Monday, July 9, 2018

The Making of a Scene

by Eddie Jones     @EddieJonesTweet

The power of a scene is derived from the slightly claustrophobic feeling you get when you focus on the characters. They seem somehow trapped in a place, unable to leave. They are forced to face a main issue in the scene. Through your writing, you pan across the scene and set the context, then move in for a close-up shot of the characters struggling. 

In order to engage the reader’s imagination, your scenes must do one or more of the following:
·      Move the story through action
·      Characterize through reaction
·      Set up essential scenes to come
·      Sprinkle in spice
·      Reveal information that moves the story forward with new goals, old secrets, and hidden motives
·      Show conflict between characters (this adds tension)
·      Deepen the character’s development
·      Create suspense (introduce a new wrinkle that leaves the reader hanging) 

Static settings will put your readers to sleep, so get your characters moving. Show the world around them spinning. It can be something as simple as snow falling on a patio railing or bullets piercing the sides of the limo, but you must show movement. Make sure the reader “sees” something is happening.

Open with action, then place the scene in context. Why are the characters in the scene? How did they arrive? What does your Lead want? Background IS NOT history. Background IS showing your Lead’s goal for that scene. Your character must want something. What is it? This is where you will state your Lead’s goal for this scene. In each scene ask “what is discovered?” ~ STEVEN JAMES

Who or what stands in the way of your Lead reaching his goal? Present the barrier. Include conflict on every page. Never let your Lead relax. Show the struggle. Increase the risk of failure. Tension comes from unresolved conflict, so let the scene evolve into a mess.

At the end of each scene, your Lead must choose. A scene moves from struggle, discovery, choice, and change. In each scene your Lead must find a clue or open door to thrust her forward. Present two paths and make your lead pick one.

When you finish writing a scene:
·      Read the scenes before and after. Does what just happened deserve its own scene? If not, delete.
·      Could the information be placed in a neighboring scene? If so, combine.
·      Is the scene memorable?  Memorable scenes stand out because they catch the reader off guard. The emotion on the page speaks to the reader’s heart.   Memorable scenes are so powerful and poignant that readers will rush to tell their friends.  Strive to make each scene that good.

A scene is a story within a story. Picture the setting, the characters. Listen to them breathing. Hear the cadence of their speech. Study the thing they’re shielding behind their back. Force them to reveal it. Paint scenes in short strokes with vivid colors. Make sure the character’s goal is clear. Then film your characters as they act.

1.     What was revealed?
2.     What/who was changed/transformed?
3.     What is the purpose of the scene?
4.     How should the reader feel after the scene?
5.     What should the reader think after the scene?
6.     What should the reader wonder after the scene?

Now go … and make a scene!


What scene are you going to be working on? We'd love to hear about it in the comments below!

(Reprinted with permission from A Novel Idea: )

Eddie is an award-winning author of middle-grade fiction with Harper Collins. He is also Senior Acquisitions Editor and CEO of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas ( and co-founder of Christian Devotions Ministries ( Eddie teaches writing workshops and Amazon marketing at novel retreats, writing conferences, and to small groups. If you would like to book Eddie for your group contact him at

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