Category Archives: scenes

Organizing your ideas – Scenes

Random ideas are a fantastic way of training your creative ability, but they are not a story. You must organize them. How? Into scenes.

It’s a prevalent problem for beginners to organize their ideas into scenes. What is, indeed, a scene? Where does it end? How can I make it enjoyable?

I had been there myself, and after a lot of research, I found the better answers in Randy Ingermanson’s blog (I’ll give you some links at the end of the post). He taught me something that I already was able to prove to myself: even a weak plot can be an interesting book if you have good scenes.

Scene’s characteristics

The scene is the tiniest piece of your novel – such as a musical note within a song. It occurs in a delimited space of time in the story (minutes or hours usually).

One of the major problems for young writers is the length of it. Well, some writers put an average word limit, such as Randy himself. I don’t, but if the scene is getting too big, then something is definitely off.

A scene focuses on one character of your book, but not necessarily the main one. It has to have a clear beginning and end.

Types of Scenes

Something surprised me about Randy’s posts, and it can be quite frustrating, I must admit. It is the fact that after you read this, you’ll notice that many of your scenes weren’t scenes at all. Confusing?

Randy divides the scenes into two types: proactive and reactive. A proactive scene has the sequence: goal, conflict, setback. The reactive scene is about reaction, dilemma, and decision. And that’s it.

I could try to explain each one of them, but I believe that nothing better than his own words to explain this.

Proactive Scene

“When you start writing a proactive scene, do it at the point in your story when it’s natural to establish the focal character’s goal for that scene. Quickly establish that goal, and then spend most of the scene working through the conflict of the scene. Eventually, you’ll hit a critical point. This is usually a setback (in which the focal character fails to achieve her goal and is now worse off than before.) Occasionally, it will be a victory (in which the focal character achieves her goal and is now better off than before). Once you’ve hit that critical point, the scene is over. Start a new scene.”

Reactive Scene

“When you start writing a reactive scene, it should normally follow closely on the heels of a setback in a proactive scene. The point of a reactive scene is to give the focal character a chance to react emotively to the hit she’s just taken and to switch directions. Start out with that emotive reaction and let it run its course (usually a few paragraphs or a page at most). Then take your character into a dilemma—what to do next. There should be no good options. If there is a good option, it’s not a dilemma. The dilemma may take quite a while to work through. The focal character has only bad options. Explore these and reject them, one by one, until there is only one acceptable course of action. That’s your focal character’s decision and the reactive scene is now over. Start a new scene.”

Towards Perfection

Scenes are probably the most critical part of your book. They are responsible for your readers to keep reading. They need to catch attention and keep the interest in your story and your characters.

Good scenes make a mediocre plot shine. Bad scenes ruin the most perfect novel.

To read more about the topic, visit Randy Ingermanson’s blog on the links below.

Writing the perfect scene

How do you know when to start and end a scene?