#LoveOzYA Writes: What goes into a great scene?
By Jasmin McGaughey
Writing a book is a massive task, and it can take writers years to complete! Sometimes, it can be easier to think of a novel in scenes — to break it down.
But how do you write a scene? What should you include? There are many basic principles that any good scene needs (most of the time). So, we thought we’d find some great tips and give you some examples!
First off: what is a scene?
A scene is a continuous set of action, or dialogue, or internal exposition that occurs in a story. A scene can be a really short paragraph where a protagonist learns about a family secret. Or a long series of paragraphs of a fight scene. In novels it’s usually separated by a section break or a dinkus (a typographical character).
In young adult stories, we often enjoy fast-paced action, big emotional moments, and memorable characters with a strong, engaging voice — and these tips may help you bring those elements to your own #LoveOzYA storytelling
Remember these are just suggestions — writers can break rules all the time!
Ingredient 1: Purpose
When jumping into a scene, it’s important to think about why the scene is on the page. What is the reason you are showing readers this particular moment or event?
The Australian Writers Centre suggests scenes can:
- develop characters
- advance plot
- set something up for later in the story
- mislead the reader
- increase tension.
When plotting or editing your scenes, it can be great to identify what your purpose is and check the ways it’s clear (or not) within your prose.
Ingredient 2: Point of view
The point of view in a story varies all the time. Is your story in first person (e.g. I saw the cat)? Second person (e.g. You saw the cat)? Or third (e.g. Amber saw the cat)? Or a combination of multiple characters’ point of view? Whatever your decision, it should be clear to the reader.
An Allen and Unwin extract from The Writing Book by Kate Grenville asks:
- Who’s telling the story?
- How much do they know?
- Are they telling the truth?
- Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is told from two first person perspectives, Beth and Catching.
- Please Don’t Hug Me by Kay Kerr is told from one first person perspective, Erin, in the form of letters to her brother Rudy.
- A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland, The Medoran Chronicles series by Lynette Noni, and Deliverance of the Blessed by A.B. Endacott are both examples of text in third person.
Ingredient 3: Well-chosen words (including in dialogue)
When writing, every word counts! No matter what genre or age group the text is for.
Allen and Unwin provided an extract from Writing Fiction by Garry Disher online. This extract highlights the importance of choosing what information is best for narration or dialogue:
And some handy dialogue tips, including:
- listen to how people talk around you
- there is nothing wrong with the word ‘said’
- indirect dialogue can be effective (e.g. ‘James told me it was too cold to go outside’ instead of ‘”It’s too cold to go outside,” said James’).
Ingredient 4: Your creativity!
Remember, rules (and tips) when writing are mostly generalisations!
There are many different and experimental ways to write. There are many different and experimental ways to write, but we hope our tips inspire you.
Do you have any good tips for writing a scene?