Allow me, humans, to wish you a very happy end to your year. Hope you collected inspirations for writing and motivation to continue into 2015.
What exactly is a scene? We all know what it means in reference to movies, and to a novel, it really is something similar. It is a series of events, from beginning to conclusion, that occur at the same location or time frame. A novel is made up of chapters, which are made up of scenes.
Sometimes, as writers, we get caught up in two things: 1) the bigger picture of the master plot of the novel; and 2) the focus in details of individual paragraphs and sentences. The concept of narrowing in on scenes often gets lost in between both these ideas.
However, strong scenes are crucial to keep the reader turning pages. They take the reader from one point to the next, from every twist and turn in the story. Some we do remember to take care on, such as the beginning and the climax. But others, particularly in the middle of our novels, we forget to give attention.
Now that you've finished writing your novel, it's time to go back and look at your scenes. Ideally, this should come after you've already looked at your total plot. Revisions tend to work from the large to the very small. So once you're sure that all your scenes are in the correct order, that all the puzzle pieces fit together, it's time to paint those actual puzzle pieces.
Components of a Strong Scene
Characters: Which characters play a part in this scene? Are they all crucial to the scene? Are there any characters that you're missing or that can be cut? What are their goals during this scene? Are those goals clear to the reader? How are their actions in this scene reaffirming the reader's understanding of this character? (Reaffirming character traits is more important in creating a round character than having a ton of traits)
Setting: Where does this scene take place? Is there a better, cooler place? Is the setting crucial for the scene? (could it happen anywhere else?) Do the character interact with their surroundings constantly throughout the scene? When does this scene take place during the day/season? How does this affect the scene?
Beginning-Middle-End: Does the scene have a strong catalyst that begins the scene? (What brought the characters to this scene and what drives this particular scene?) How does the conflict of this scene relate to the conflicts of the previous and following scenes? How does the conflict of this scene intensify as the scene progresses? Does it have a strong conclusion that logically leads to the next scene? Does the scene end on a strong note? (Hint: Make a last line appear stronger by ending it on a one syllable word or a stressed beat.)
Mood: Is there a strong mood to this scene? Is this mood conveyed strictly by one component of the scene (Setting) or several (Objects, Characters, etc.)? How does this mood relate to the overall mood of the book? Could the mood be strengthened further in my writing?
Weak Scene Indicators
1. The surroundings disappear
Remember that the setting of the scene needs to be crucial to the scene itself. Keep the characters grounded in this setting. Describe the wind. Have the characters fiddle with the food on their plates. Just keep their actions, especially actions that hint at their mood, personalities, and such, interacting with the setting. Particularly during dialogue, when the surroundings most often disappear.
2. Weak dialogue
Keep the dialogue flowing, and the scene itself will flow. This means having dialogue that is clear and to the point, as well as powerful. One trick is to have at least one badass line on every one to two pages, the type of line you'd want to be quoted by lovers of your book. It doesn't have to be James Bond-esque, but simply powerful, one that pulses with intensity. Also, cut dialogue that is too much like real life. We don't need lengthy greetings. Or characters calling each other by name.
3. Info dumps
This is particularly true for science fiction and fantasy. Avoid boring info dumps. That's not to say you can't have info dumps, but make sure that it is as clear as possible and not continually yanking the reader away from the conflict, which is what truly is propelling your scene.
4. No game changer
Every scene needs to provide a game changer to the overall plot, either in the form of an action or in the reveal of information. Something needs to change, otherwise, what's the point of this scene?