Writing Scintillating Scenes––Part VIII

How do you begin your scenes? There are several ways to open a scene. Let’s look at them. The way you open a scene will either draw the reader in or they’ll put your book down. Click to Tweet #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

Opening Scenes

One popular way to open a scene is “in medias res” –– meaning dropping your character into the middle of things…the middle of the action. When opening a suspense or mystery novel, this technique is particularly effective at grabbing the reader. But it can be used for any genre. You just want to make sure you provide enough details of setting, conflict, and characterization so the reader won’t be lost.

Other scenes could be opened with holdover action from other scenes. Narrative summary or dialogue can be used to open scenes, but at least one scene-setting sentence or two should be at the beginning of the scene. If not the first sentence, then within a few sentences. One thing I hate, as a reader, is reading a scene where I have no idea whose POV it is, where I’m at, or what time it is. Setting the scene means to give us orientation to that scene by providing the necessary details so we can find our way as readers.

Opening scenes can include comments about character, setting, or event––or life in general for the POV character. Very often in today’s books, I read scenes that are split––either between chapters, or just aren’t finished because the author wants to continue the suspense. That’s fine to do. Just remember to link the scenes with the POV character and/or the action.

If you’re linking scenes, you’ll need transitional text to connect them. It’s also recommended that chapter beginnings, unless they are directly connected to the page before, should give some sort of transitionary time period. Such as: A week later, a month later, one summer day, the next Sunday, etc. That keeps the readers going with the flow of the story, and keeps them from wondering how much time has passed. This is especially important if your story takes place of a period of time, such as weeks, months, or even years. One of my writing mentors drilled that into my head as I was writing “Meghan’s Choice.” I’m glad she did.

Ending Scenes

Scene endings are just as important as scene beginnings, because you’ll want to hook that reader to keep turning the pages of your book. Usually, you’ll want to “just stop” the action, and leave them hanging. There’s a post on this blog somewhere from last year about cliffhangers. That’s in the Creating Suspense series that ran last year. Here’s the link, if you’d like to refresh your memory.

Whatever you do, however you end your scenes, leave the reader with the appropriate attitude toward the character and the story for that point in the text.

A couple other ways to end a scene are: 1) using “sequel” –– a comment or thought by the POV character about what’s just happened; 2) a narrative trick to “pull back” from the action to comment on the larger story.

Exercises

  • Open a scene with dialogue, but quickly establish who is speaking and what is going on.
  • Open with a description of someone in the middle of an action. (in medias res)
  • Open a scene with an element of description of setting, then immediately, introduce the POV character.

Set the stage for both action and characterization with your scenes. Click to Tweet Use scene openings to grab your readers, then use endings and new beginnings to keep their attention. In this way, you’ll write scintillating scenes they won’t forget. #amwriting #scintillatingscenes

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