Scenes are the specific stages by which your main characters motivations are enacted against opposition, internal or external (or both). A scenes has a cause-effect relationship with other scenes. Each scene shows something crucial or established at that point in the story. Modern novels have roughly 40 to 140 scenes.

  • The protagonist must have some intention or goal
  • At least one character goes through some kind of change
  • A new piece of information is given that relates to the plot

The key elements of a scene

  • Announce upcoming events to allow the audience to anticipate and prepare for them.
  • Provide contrast with other scenes (especially neighbouring scenes). Vary between short and long scenes. Emphasize different emotions (for example a relaxing scene between two tense scenes).
  • Show the memorable moment of the scene. The outcome of this moment should be of vital importance to the overall story and point towards the climax.
  • Show how the event has impacted the story and its characters

How to open a scene

Start with one or two transition lines. Let the audience know where they are in the time-line of the story and how much time has passed since the previous scene. Anchor your reader in the setting by briefly having your characters interact with the props. Announce the protagonist’s scene intention or goal so the audience knows why this scene matters.

The Proactive and Reactive Scene Types

Proactive: Goal – Conflict – Setback

The POV character states a specific, clearly defined goal. A series of obstacles prevent him from immediately achieving his goal. He either fails to achieve it, or achieving his goal leads to another problem.

Reactive: Reaction – Dilemma – Decision (also known as Sequel Scenes)

The POV character is in recovery from his recent loss/defeat. He tries to figure out what to do but every option comes with more problems. Eventually he makes a decision.

The overall story is a vicious circle between these two scene types.