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Writing a scene

Writing a scene is really about throwing a series of questions at yourself.

  • Is the scene inside or outside?
  • Is it day or night?
  • What season is it?
  • What sounds and smells hit you as you enter here?
  • Have the characters been at this location for a while or are they arriving as the scene opens?
  • What has been happening here before we arrive?

Keep firing these type of questions at yourself until it feels like you were there.

If anyone asks you a question that you did not consider, you should still be able to answer it convincingly very quickly as you have made this scene so real to yourself that you know it backwards.

If there are other "extras' in the background then bear in mind that although our main characters are the focus for the reader there may well be other events and conversations happening around them. It shouldn't seem like the whole world has stopped to watch your scene, life should be happening all around. So make note of a few background events you can mention in passing and maybe carry through some metaphorical themes to mirror or juxtapose what your characters are doing.

Are the characters using this area for its intended purpose? (e.g. are they visiting a hospital seeking treatment or are they breaking into a hospital at night to steal drugs?) If they are not using the area for its intended purpose then how does the set up of the immediate surroundings conflict with what they are trying to do?

Always draw out a map or diagram so you can "walk' through the scene with your characters and make sure everything happens logically.

Sometimes it's a simple style choice: Let's imagine we're writing a scene where someone is about to get shot.

Do we want it to be a shocking surprise? If so the scene needs to be a happy and peaceful one with bright colours and slow movement.

Or do we want the scene to be filled with fear and foreboding from the start, building to the shooting as the climax of a dark piece of writing?