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  • Writer's pictureEli Allison

How to Write a Scene: Part 2

The Blank Page

Tell that blank page to step off; I've got your back my writing Mofos.

Today we are diving into 'How to write a scene, Part 2.' Here's Part 1 if you missed it.

We've got five more things to think about when writing a scene, with as always examples, err... colourful prose and a round-up graphic that you can pin, post or pig out on at the bottom.

Caveat: For every rule, suggestion and piece of advice, there will always be a writer who smashed them apart. Went their way. Stuck two fingers up and rode off into the sunset, which is great, that's what art is about, push those boundaries. But it's helpful to know the 'rules', so you understand how and why you're breaking them. A fight scene is usually written in tight, clear prose because it's easier for a reader to figure out what the hell is going on. Time passing is typically written in narrative form because describing about each day in minute detail would be monotonous. Editors have hard-ons for 'said,' because it's invisible to readers, and so means the dialogue sings without all the clutter. These rules have been learnt and built on over hundreds of years. Writing, like all art forms, is a craft as much as an art, and becoming a master crafts-person takes time, skills and knowledge. I wasn't born holding a pencil and being able to draw when I shot out of my mum, I took lessons, practice pushed myself and learned from other artists. Writing is exactly the same.

Now let's get us some hot tip action.

Be Careful with Narration

In large doses, Narrative summary is to scene openers what voice-overs are to films, lazy arsed shit that everyone just skips but...

Save Time

...Sometimes action will be too inefficient, and this is one of the reasons for a narrative launch. If a scene needs to start quickly; an interesting summary can help.

Charles Dickins was a master of the Narrative launch, take Nicholas Nickleby's opening line.

'There once lived, in a sequestered part of the county of Devonshire, one Mr Godfrey Nickleby: a worthy gentleman, who, taking it into his head rather late in life that he must get married...'

Although we're being told rather than shown, it works, because he was setting up important information that is needed for the reader to orientate themselves within the scene. Of course, some writers like to play with the disorientation of readers, but work out what you want to achieve and write with that in mind.

Another reason for narration can be, a setting launch where the information in it, aka, 'The space station is on fire...' is essential to the plot.

It sets the scene because the scene itself is essential to the plot. Sci-fi, Fantasy or historical novels, works this style well.

Set The Tone

Tone helps with immersing your reader as it helps everything land. A jump scare, a death scene, a romantic kiss, all works better if you've laid the groundwork with the right tone.

How do we create the right tone?

Let's explore a haunted house horror. First things first; POV, can massively change the tone. Write as the scared little girl and the reader will hopefully be sympathetic and invest in her escaping, write from the POV of the Ghost, and it changes the whole shebang. 1st person POV is an excellent tool for horror as it puts the reader in the danger seat and helps with engagement.

Sentence structure is also essential. Long flowing sentences can build tension while shorter ones can shock.

Think about the metaphors and similes you're going to use, describing the spider webs, 'as delicate as fairy wings' is lovely, but we're writing horror, so match your metaphors and similes to tone. Those spider's webs are now 'dust traps that cling to every surface waiting to catch you.'

Work It Hard

Each scene has a responsibly to the themes in the novel as a whole. Jimmy is looking for his lost love: now he could find a clue in a gym, or he could find a clue in the lost luggage department. Which works better for the theme is, 'not knowing what you have until it's lost?'

Always think about how you can weave your themes, either with the setting, characters or symbolism throughout your story.

If you're starting out, don't get too hung up on creating unique and profound symbolism (that way madness lies) just get into the habit of adding those kinds of layers to your work. Always ask yourself, when creating a scene, how does place/object/tone resonate my themes?


Reflect the characters state of mind through setting. Think... sigh... 'It was a dark and stormy night*, and Jimmy's heart was torn.' But be creative, perhaps, the city flat Jimmy lives in is neat and orderly like himself until it's robbed, which coincides with his mental health flare up.

Or perhaps the art studio Jill works in is messy and colourful like herself until her new boyfriend (probably Jimmy again) cleans it up.

Objects are also a great way of showing your character's inner thoughts: What does your MC's favourite chair tell us about them? How do they cut their sandwiches? Take care of their wand?

This links strongly to showing not telling. Because although you're telling the reader about the strange china figures, your MC cleans down twice a day you're really showing us how obsessive they are.

*Use 'weather' like Twitter, f*cking responsibly.

And this concludes the lesson.

Rowdy Round up

Hope you enjoy my fruity fresh Scene take down, I'm on da Twitter where all the other cool middle-aged mums are. If you liked this article I've got others, all in my writing grotto of inky goodness.

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