Scenes: Building Blocks of Story

Act V, Scene III of Shakespeare's Coriolanus. ...
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Each scene is a mini-story.  Scene structure echoes story structure. That is, beginning, middle & end, conflict, character change/arc. In the editing—not the writing—stage you want to check each scene thoroughly.

  1. How does the scene advance the story? Does it reveal something important about the character?  If not, you know what to do; cut the scene.
  2. Who is the protagonist of the scene? This might be the antagonist of the story. What doe s/he want? What obstacles stand in his way? What is the conflict?
  3. Characters need to be in action. Make them move. Give each character and activity so that he or she is not just talking.
  4. Dialog for each character should be “in character.” Each one has her own way of speaking, a working vocabulary, phraseology that sets her apart.  If all the characters talk the same, you as the writer, need to get inside each character’s mind and alter the dialogue.
  5. What mood does the scene have? What sounds?
  6. Have you double checked down to the first word that the scene starts at the very last possible moment?  Do you end the scene before extra things hang in the air or get in the way, often of the mood, of the scene?
  7. Do you alternate between scenes of action and rest, of preparation and reaction?  Double check the sequence of your scenes to maximize reader/audience involvement.

Working through your scene structure and order is the best way to ensure that your story structure works at a base level continually throughout the story.

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