The scenes in your stories should flow one after another, like blocks of dominoes. You hit the first one and the rest follow until the end. But, if you don’t get that feeling when reviewing what you’ve written, it means you need to work on structuring your scenes. There is no predetermined length of a scene, or a number of words you must write. In fact, a scene can be shown with little more than a few sentences, if you’ve done it right. Below, you will find what a scene needs, how it begins, and how you need to end it in order to ensure that the next scene is a logical aftermath.
1. Begin with a goal
Readers prefer to read about protagonists that are active, rather than reactive. This means that your protagonist should have a goal in every scene and every moment of your book; an endless struggle to reach something. Of course, other characters should also have agency, and their own goals might clash with the protagonist’s goal. Your protagonist will need strong motivation to get in conflict with another person, and you must establish that at the beginning of the scene. Then, when you add another character, or an obstacle, to the protagonist’s goal, you have lead your scene to conflict.
2. Struggle and conflict
The conflict can be a physical fight or a battle of wit and will between two characters. It can also be a struggle to survive in a wild land, a man versus nature kind of fight. And, depending on the level of tension you want to infuse, it can be a simple disagreement between friends which will have consequences. However, the conflict must arise from the protagonist’s goal. And since achieving the goal might solve the whole plot of the book at the beginning, it’s advisable that the protagonist fails in the task.
3. Failure and disaster
If the protagonist always achieved his goal, in every scene, then there isn’t tension and the story will be a flat line which will bore the readers. There are two ways to create disaster in a scene. The first way is to have the protagonist fail to achieve his goal. The second way is to create disastrous consequences for the protagonist if he does achieve his goal. This means there were consequences that the protagonist hadn’t foreseen. However, don’t make the consequences too obvious – otherwise the protagonist might be labeled as thoughtless, rash and reckless.
4. Reaction time
During the moment of disaster, the protagonist takes in everything that happens. What follows is his reaction to the events that had taken place. This is why the disaster needs to live up to the name; otherwise the reaction time will be short and unnecessary. However, if you have managed to create an important goal for the protagonist, and a disaster that no reader could have foreseen, then the reaction time will be not only necessary, but important. Because after the reaction, which can be shock, disbelief, even panic, the protagonist needs to calm down, and reach the final part of the scene, which is reflection.
5. Reflection and decision
This is the most important part of the scene, because it needs to set up the next scene. Upon reflection, the protagonist needs to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what he will do next. He will need to choose his next course of action, and make a decision which will move the plot forward. Remember, the protagonist should always have multiple choices about what to do, and must always choose the course of action that doesn’t guarantee success. Your goal in the last section of the scene is to create sympathy for the character: he did his best, it didn’t work out, and now the choices the protagonist is left with might only lead to more disaster. Never allow your characters to get the easy way out, because that only screams deus ex machina.
Image credit: Pixabay
Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.