We have talked about the basic structure of a scene and what it should do in Part 1 and have looked at a few important types of scenes in Part 2. Now, since you are starting to get a pretty good idea of what you are planning to do with your scenes, let’s go even deeper into the scene and look at how it works in three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end.
A writer’s greatest weapon, in my opinion, is the ability to start writing in medias res. That is, writers can begin writing in the middle of the action where there are no lengthy descriptions, and the author chooses to show, not tell. Why do I think that this is the greatest weapon? Because readers who are suddenly thrust into your created world and things are already going on feel compelled to keep reading. It gives them a sense of “catch-up” when everyone else knows the information that they crave to know as well. I’m not saying that it’s a terrible idea to begin a scene with the description of the surroundings or a character or the author’s musings about life. I’m just saying that the reader has to make more of an effort to feel engaged within the story.
In the beginning of a scene, characters should be introduced by the second paragraph. This is vital if this scene happens to be the opening scene to your novel. Sure, action is great, but readers will be less interested in the goings-on if there aren’t characters that propel them.
Remember back to Part 1 when I was comparing a scene to a plot and how it had rising action, climax, and falling action? While the beginning of a scene will have subtle rising action, the middle of the scene will have demi-climaxes. These are instances that build tension in the scene that translates to the overall plot. Think of these demi-climaxes as hurdles your characters will have to face in order to get to the end of the scene or story. Depending on what type of scene you are writing, the demi-climax may be completely internal, or it may be a part of the action that effects the characters and pushes them down the plot line.
In the middle of the scene, the characters must come into contact with conflict. It doesn’t have to be as big as a character dying or deciding to kill off a group of people (though it could be); it just has to be an obstacle hindering the characters that builds up tension for the big climax that the characters have to overcome in some way, shape, or form.
Depending on how the character will be able to overcome the demi-climax and if he is able will define how you end the scene. It may end in a nail-biting cliff hanger and then jumps to a different type of scene, leaving the reader thirsting for more, or it may be resolved in a way that changes a character’s original plan of action (usually how a plot is created, anyway).
You don’t have to completely resolve the demi-climax either. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend having a definite ending unless it is the last scene in your story. That way, the readers are compelled to continue reading since they don’t have a sense of closure after just a couple of scenes.
I know that this has been a lengthy post, and I thank you for seeing it through until the end. This concludes my Elements of a Scene series.
Thanks for reading!