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How to Structure Story Scenes

SCENE SCALES
This section looks at structuring scenes. When plotting, I think in terms of three structure scales. They are large, medium and small.

Large works in three parts, beginning, middle and end. The medium scale takes these three parts and makes them longer and more cohesive. The small scale goes deeper into every action and thought needed in scenes.

LARGE
Scenes can either follow one of these two options. The end of one section flows into the beginning of the next.

·         A - Aim, Conflict, Tragedy
Or
·         B - Reply, Problem, Judgement
As
·         X - Start, Mid, End

When writing scene lists, I make them follow this order. It helps breaking each scene into beginnings, middles and ends. If your scenes don’t flow together well, it may be that they don’t use this structure. You can consider cutting or adding extra scenes.

MEDIUM
After deciding whether scenes follow the A or B large pattern, you can expand upon that. Below is a scene outline suggestion. Only the BOLDED start, rise, mid, drop, and end are necessary, and the bare minimum. Other scenes may require deeper thought processes.

A - Recap, Exposition, START
B - RISE, MID, DROP
C - END, Summary, Conclusion
D - Foretell, Transition, Cliffhanger

If you want to link scenes together seamlessly, use suggestion D. It’s a technique frequent in serials, where writers look to entice the reader to return.

·         Recap - This fills the reader in on previous important story details. A narrator tells it, and comic and serial writers make use of it.
·         Exposition - You can divulge important story details to readers before the action.
·         Beginning - This starts the action. It will be either an aim or a reply to a judgement or tragedy.
·         Rise - The action carries through until the...
·         Middle - The main scene conflict, or problem, which will...
·         Drop - Down in action towards the...
·         End - After the ending action, you may choose to end the scene with a...
·         Summery - This consists of recapping the scene and adding a...
·         Conclusion - This lets readers know the point of the scene, if unclear. Then you can...
·         Foretell - Something about what will happen later in the story. This adds intrigue, but is only possible if you are sure of your stories goals. Then you can do a...
·         Transition - Which links to the following scene, but you may add a...
·         Cliffhanger - Which will entice the reader to read on and there, is something unresolved. This is a ‘the hero is in trouble, what will happen next, stay tuned until next week’, kinda moment.

When you have all this information for every scene, you will be able to write books fast. I estimate most scenes to be between 700-1,200 words long. Even if you don’t use every technique, having most of them will help.

Completing this medium stage means, you have at least five actions per scene needing completion, but you can always add more...

SMALL
This technique comes from Cognitive Therapy. It’s a suggestion of how the human brain works in processing information. After the input, they don’t necessarily have to work in the same order as I have given as they all interconnect.

-      Input, Thought, Feeling, Emotion, Reflex

·         Input - This is an action. Something happens that feeds the mind. An event witnessed, a sensation felt. When people see an action, it mentally provokes...
·         Thoughts - About the situation, this incites a...
·         Feelings - Characters feel this internally. This gut reaction inflames...
·         Emotions - This raw passion in turn causes...
·         Reflexes - This becomes its own action as in input.

This structure goes on at a small scale for each character throughout the scene. When planning, you can think of this as the advice every writer is told not to do - write stories as a list of ‘and then, and then, and then’.

Though this is good advice, as it makes fiction sounds childish, it’s good having simple lists to use when writing scenes. Use bullet-points, numbers, or roman numerals, instead of ‘and then’. It’s neater.

Happy Creations!