head shot Black Tiffany's

Fiction is composed of scenes. In a handout for a course on novel writing Jack Hodgins used to teach at the University of Victoria, he defines a scene as “a unit of continuous prose narrative, taking place in one location, in which we see and hear characters close-up, in order to move the story ahead by showing what is accomplished when one or more characters (or one character and a significant object) come together in a way that someone (perhaps everyone) pursues a goal and either succeeds, fails, or partially succeeds or fails, or lays the groundwork for succeeding (or failing) later.”

Phew. Sounds complicated. But here are


  1. A scene is whole and not broken into separate chunks.
  2. Scenes don’t jump around—they’re in one particular place. Characters can move but the location of the scene is set in one place.
  3. A scene is comprised of these elements: setting, characters, action and dialogue that the reader “sees” happening before their eyes. Think of scenes as mini-tableaux. The scenes should be dramatic or contain elements of drama: somebody wants something and is going after it.
  4. A scene works best when the writer has built up tension beforehand by means of conflict. The best action is also marked by indecision, just as in life. Action scenes are a great place to reveal a character’s weaknesses as well as strengths.
  5. All scenes have outcomes—win, lose and on occasion, a tie or draw.



My mentor/professor/friend, John Dufresne taught in his MFA Creative Writing courses that scenes “show” as the old adage says: “They show and don’t tell.” Scenes illustrate the essential events happening in the story, novel or even memoir. A scene has dialogue, which gives readers the characters’ thoughts and intentions. A scene gives us the characters’ actions or gestures, which are a more deliberate and careful representation than mere words in narrative exposition. Here is where the writing utilizes all the senses. (Exposition may be scenic if the correct words are chosen to enable the reader “to see” what’s going on, especially if strong verbs and nouns are used.)


The reader doesn’t need to be able to see every solitary detail, but they must get a clear view of what’s going on in the narrative. The writer should know in advance how each character enlivens the scene portrayed. What do these characters bring to the scene? What do the characters want? What are their intentions and how are they going about getting these objectives? What do the characters risk in order to obtain what they want? What are their feelings and positions toward the other characters?


To make the scene effective take into consideration POV—you need to denote whose scene it is by use of dialogue, action, and the five senses. Keep the dialogue tag lines simple: he/she said. Express the characters’ thoughts and ideas. Utilize some exposition if necessary in between dialogue.


Scenes are enhanced by setting and place and the application of clear description. Never forget that you’ll need transitions to keep the writing smooth from scene to narrative exposition or to a new scene. Otherwise you have a sense of chaos or choppiness.


So what’s the function of scene in what you’re writing? A scene contributes to plot, reveals character, promotes theme with symbolism, metaphors, images, and relates causally or thematically with events that happened before and events that will happen after. Don’t forget what David Gerrold, American science fiction screenwriter and novelist says, “Every scene must make the next scene inevitable.”
So try it: Write a scene within a place: kitchen, backyard, bathroom, garage, or driveway. Give us: the characters—at least two people—weather, time of day, and a problem or crisis. Tension is the basic key to every good and important scene.

Use only he said, she said or Mary said, John said. Anything after that simple tag line following dialogue weakens the prose—especially adverbs and adjectives: “he said, lovingly,” “she said happily”— simply show the love or show the joy with an action.

next coming up on 15th August Part II of The A,B,Cs of Scene Writing -WHAT NOT TO FORGET WHILE WRITING A SCENE  by NINA ROMANO

Cover image Lemon Blossoms

More about the author at: Follow HER on Twitter: @ninsthewriter.

Author’s bio:

Nina Romano earned a B.S. from Ithaca College, an M.A. from Adelphi University and a B.A. and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from FIU. She’s a world traveler and lover of history. She lived in Rome, Italy, for twenty years, and is fluent in Italian and Spanish. She has authored a short story collection, The Other Side of the Gates, and has published five poetry collections and two poetry chapbooks with independent publishers. She co-authored Writing in a Changing World. Romano has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize.

Romano’s historical Wayfarer Trilogy has been published from Turner Publishing. The Secret Language of Women, Book #1, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist and Gold Medal winner of the Independent Publisher’s 2016 IPPY Book Award. Lemon Blossoms, Book # 2, was a Foreword Reviews Book Award Finalist, and In America, Book #3, was a finalist in Chanticleer Media’s Chatelaine Book Awards.


Author: loganivy

FIRST THINGS FIRST Simply put I am here because I love books... I am extremely passionate about stories especially those steeped in mythical folklore, ancient myths, and legends and suffused with the magic of unique realms and supernatural worlds. I believe there is an alternate universe where magic, mysticism, and wonder still exist, a world where no reality is impossible. Discovering ourselves is an ongoing journey. From reading the next logical step was writing. I am the author of ‘The Breach’, an upcoming supernatural fantasy.For when I write about these worlds I become a part of them and learn more about myself each day. A PEEK INTO MY SOUL I am a realist but at the same time also a dreamer. To me, reading is a window into the hearts of others . Writing is the window to my imagination drawing from my glimpses of the world around me. The beauty of writing lies in the mind’s eye – what we see, the way we interpret it and finally how we translate it to paper. HOW I VIEW MY CHARACTERS To me, every character is multi-dimensional. There is no mere black or white perspective to a character. If a person is strong, we have to delve into what contributed to making them that way? Similarly, what are the fears, likes and loves of a character. That is what makes each one of them unique. It makes them what they are. No character should be just a filler in a story. If a character is evil, why is he or she that way? If a male character is not the central focus of a story, if he is okay with the girl in his life taking center stage I don’t see him as weak. I think he is a great guy and the kind that any girl would be lucky to have in their lives. Looking for the prince who rescues you from the dragon or the lecherous villain should be passé. Real men may not have muscles but they have good hearts. I write about such princes, the guys who are also okay with the girl playing hero in their life, being rescued by them too. I love reading and writing about girls and women with flaws because all real women are that way. Not the most beautiful, not the bravest, not the thinnest nor the richest. They find strength in their family, in their love. My girls do not compete against men; only circumstances and the challenges they throw up. The men who support them, stand by them are the ones I like to read and write about. Through this blog I hope to share more about inspirational characters and the beauty and richness a book contains. MY INSPIRATION Is it possible to cherish and to love something all your life without really analyzing it or understanding why? ‘Stories’ fired my imagination since I was a child….it started with my father, who would spend thirty minutes each night weaving supernatural tales of troubled ghosts in a bid to awe, shock and above all bond with his daughters. He never realized and neither did I that he was also weaving those little quirks into my personality that later on in life would go ahead and set me apart. During class breaks in school, I would share the same tales with the class, now adding my own embellishments, peaks, and lows so as to hold their attention and leave them shouting for more. As my dad got busier and we got a little older the stories seemed to have trickled off but not before transferring that hook for the beginning, the narration, the mystery and the spectacular end. Books and Movies became my magical time machines capable of drawing, pulling, and holding me. Friends and colleagues would decide to read books or watch movies after I brought to life with words what I read or saw on screen. Even love came to me through books when the first time I met my husband we fell in love over a discussion on ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’. One day I realized what I should have known all along – Stories; they lived in my soul. I had worlds to create, people waiting to be brought to life and stories to share. So I share what I love.


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