Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Setting a Scene


When I think of a scene I always think of a play. But not unlike the scene in a play our writing needs scenes to fill a novel or short story. A scene takes place with uninterrupted action.

Take for example two people in a restaurant. The scene calls for the pair to be intertwined in conversation. To set the scene you’ll need what it looks like, maybe add some clinking sounds from the table, kitchen and around the room. Aroma’s etc. can add to the scene. Why not give them a taste of pickle so they can scrunch their noses at the sour taste? Or bitter wine? Or maybe the woman tosses a glass of wine into the gentleman’s face and storms out of the restaurant.

The scene changes and new sights and sounds arrive to give the setting. It is possible for the character to change the view of her mind through a flashback, where she’ll set the scene of a past event.

The scene is going to set the stage for your plot (a separate blog.) Maybe it is a period piece and the cars have antiquity as they pass along the street. Maybe a horse and buggy is going to be the vehicle of choice. Whatever the case may be, your scenes and settings will carry your story as much as the plot will.

Brilliant scenes can have a lasting impression on your reader. When something significant happens, you know your are in the midst of building a great scene. A scene isn’t having a man walk to his car. Is that significant? No. The scene should advance the character or theme along. This is when you know you’ve made a powerful scene in your work.

When telling a story every element serves a specific purpose. The scene is going to set the stage for action to take place. It must be action that is pertinent to the story. Redundancy is unnecessary if you’ve made a scene strong enough in the reader’s mind.
You don’t need to take a scene of Mary tossing the wine in her man’s face and keep repeating her tendencies towards anger. Making a strong enough point the first time, the reader can clearly see an angry streak.

Make your scenes have a purpose. Have a functionality of the sbeautiful vista so it can carry the weight of the words, have room for your metaphors (sparingly) and like a spiders web the story will intricately be spun into a tale of the times.


benning said...

"A scene isn’t having a man walk to his car." - actually it can be. It depends on what you do with that man on his way to his vehicle. On the other hand it may simply be a bridge between two scenes.


Good post, Toots! I like your emphasis on the sensory elements. They are foundationally important to the writing.

joni said...

Visiting lil ol' motor mouth?

The sensory elements did wonders for my writing. And you KNOW where I picked up that little exercise! F2k!
I had read about it sure, but when I actually had some concrete story to put to use with it, my writing flourished!

Thanks for visiting Ben! :-D

June said...

Nice Joni! Scenes are the building blocks (after words, sentences, and paragraphs)...

Scene also change when there's a change in the POV character (when writing, for example, in close/limited 3rd Person POV).

Take care,