How to write fiction

How to write fiction writing scenes

man writing on notebook while sitting on wooden handrail
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Scene 1 Take 1

               If you aren’t younger than me, you know what I’m talking about. DVDs divide the content of a movie in scenes at the menu (almost always). Sometimes with the super inflated number of none the less than 40 scenes and some others, with less than 25. Such a happening, gives us the feeling of understanding what a scene is without a need for me to define them. We can even think examples…almost for certain.

               However… whenever we go to the writing domains, the concept of scene becomes more complicated. It’s so difficult to grab it by the hair. How to know where to start it and where to end it? How many scenes are a good number of scenes and how many are too much or too little?

               On sight of this, I’ve got no other than doing the tough and disagreeable job of defining a word before getting its LINE…. Or getting myself even more confused than before.


               Ours… well mine (since nobody else uses it here) is a second hand Webster from 1977 and it says:

Scene. (sēn) [<Gr. skēnē, stage]

1. the stage where an event occurs 2. the setting of a play, story, etc. 3. a division of a play , usually part of an act 4. a unit of action in a motion picture, story, etc. 5. same as scenery (sense 1) 6.a view of people and places 7. a display of strong feeling [to make a scene] 8. [Colloq.] the locale for a specified activity

Which seems a bit lacking, in comparison to my banqueted Larousse (prior 1970 probably). My loyal Larousse includes:

Suceso considerado como un espectáculo digno de atención: una escena conmovedora. / Something considered as a spectacle worth mentioning: a lovely scene

And before I go on, another word jumps out to out attention: ACT. What is an act?

Act. (akt) n. [<agree, to do] 1. a thing done 2. a doing 3. a law 4. a main division of a drama or opera….

Which again, lacks something somehow:

Hecho heroico. /Heroic deed

Robert McKee  

Opposing the dictionary, Robert McKee in “The script. Story”, defines a scene as “an action happens through a conflict in a time and space more or less continuous; that changes one of the values of the character’s life in a perceptible way. In an ideal situation, each scene becomes a NARRATIVE EVENT

This man leaves me astounded. According to whom do the values change? From the point of view of the character, the villain, my own or the possible reader? A conflict per scene? What is a narrative event?

Sarah Domet

Sarah Domet in ’90 days to your novel’ doesn’t even try to. Of course, she writes novels and isn’t teaching how to write movie scripts. She gives us examples, but goes to say that no author is able to define a scene. Oh, but she does stablish a scene as an unity with its own intro, climax and ending. She says it like this[1]:

<<Think of your favorite movie. Or better yet, your favorite book. What was your favorite part?>

Here she names some parts of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Lovely Bones, Uncle

Tom’s Cabin,  Braveheart and Spider-Man

<<All these “parts” mentioned above are actually just a single scene from each of these works. But what is a scene? How does one define it? Scene writing is often difficult to discuss — for both new and seasoned writers — because a scene combines all elements of fiction in harmony with one another. It isn’t just one aspect of craftit’s all of them put together, artfully and thoughtfully, to achieve the same kind of balance you hope for in that extravagant dish you prepare for your dinner guests. And how much of any single element (dialogue, setting, description, etc.) you need is going to depend on the particular purpose of the scene within the larger scope of your novel.

Did you get anything from all this defining?! Not even older (as in experienced) writers can define it. But it seems so worthy, it seems there can’t be plot without scenes.

I’m not really sure if Eisnten said it really but it is said he said: if you can explain something to your grandmother, then you understand it… NOT THAT THERE ARE ACTUALLY PEOPLE WHO CAN EXPLAIN QUANTUM MECHANICS. And yet, quarks do exist…

Like it or not, comment or not, subscribe or not. This is the unknown dimension of the narrative particles…


[1] Quotation or total copy-paste. As you might see it.

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