Have you ever been asked or wondered how long a scene or chapter should be? I’ve been asked multiple times over the years, so I decided to make a post about it! Not only will this post cover how I write a scene but what I include in it as well. This is based on my personal experience as a writer, so you’re more than welcome to add in a few of your own tips or suggestions in the comment section below.
Firstly, I’d plan the scene before I write it. This is separate from plotting the entire story. However you plan your entire story, there should be an outline of the scene you’d want to write. I’m old fashioned and love taking notes on paper whether it’s a mind map, bullet points or short sentences. Having the scene broken up and in front of me to put together makes it easier to visualize. Before writing the scene you should have the following ready:
• What characters are going to be in the scene
• Where the scene takes place (setting)
• How the scene will start and end (for the flow of writing)
• When does this scene take place (beginning, middle or end of story)
• Is this scene relevant to my story (optional to do before or after writing scene to see if it’ll impact the story the way you want it to)
After you have a few of those in place, it is time to write the actual scene! Consider how long you want this scene to be and how detailed it should be. If you’re writing a short scene, keep things vague but you still want the reader to absorb the story, so you’d use the five senses. I love using this method as five senses already conjures up an entire paragraph, excluding dialogue if you like. These five senes cover the description of your scene whether it be a particular setting, object, character, etc.
Whether you’re writing in the first or third person, the five sense always works well as it provides the right amount of description. Below I have listed the scenes in more detail for your writing: - What can your reader/character see? (Consider the position they’re in, for example standing in the middle of a street they should be looking at the front of the house)
- What can your character smell? (Is there a certain odour lingering in the air? Perhaps your character might be wearing a strong perfume)
- Something you can taste…(It might be really cold and as your character sticks out their tongue, they take in the cold frosty air)
- What can your character feel/touch? (Is your character holding something? Describe what they’re touching and how does it feel. Rough? Smooth?)
- What sounds can your character hear? (Is the street that your character is standing on, noisy? Neighbours quarrelling? Kids laughing? Cars honking?)
Now you have your descriptions with a bit of dialogue if need be, now it is time to round up the scene whether you’ve built suspense in the middle or waited until the end. At this point, you should have considered if this scene was worth it. Will the readers enjoy it? Does it contribute to the story? Is it relevant? If not…don’t delete! Set aside and who knows…it may be used as a bonus chapter in the future.
When ending a scene, keep in mind how you want your readers to feel at the end of reading it. Do you want them to be filled with despair? Questions? Laughs? Cries? Anger? If you can trigger any sort of reaction from a reader, then you know you’ve written a good scene. After it's all on paper, read it over and check that it makes sense! There are some things you might want to add, remove or edit. However, don’t get too caught up in editing as well all know the editing period is a dreadful period. Enjoy the writing part while you still can!