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How to Write A Scene

© 1994 Sheri Sinykin


All fiction is made up of scenes that show the story happening.  These are connected together with transitions—a few words or sentences that tell how much time has passed since the last scene as well as where the main character is now.
Each scene needs to have ALL the following things before the writer leaves that scene and goes to a new one:
Someone at the center—the main character, through whose heart and mind the story is told.
Emotion—what the main character is feeling, and often this changes from the beginning to the end of the scene.
Setting—a sense of where the main character is.  Choose a few sensory details (smells, tastes, sounds, sights) that show the specific place. 
Action—what is happening!  The main character must be doing something in each scene.  Doing includes thinking and talking, as well as more active things.
Dialogue—talking!  Sometimes the main character can talk to himself, but mostly each scene should involve the main character with another character, and the two should talk.

  What do they talk about and why is dialogue so important?     

                        Dialogue provides information.  This counts as “showing” instead of telling the information you want your reader to know.

                        Dialogue helps show what the character is like.  You can tell a lot about a person by what he says and how he says it—e.g., is he funny?  Mean?  Generous?  Forgiving?  Nervous?

                         Dialogue can help describe a place.

                         Dialogue can briefly tell was has happened in the past—things the reader needs to know.  Here again, this form of telling information counts as “showing.”


The main character must change in some way because of new information he has learned or because of new situations he has lived through.



Reader’s Report

© 1994 Sheri Sinykin


Manuscript Name:                                                         by:

Read by: 


Describe what you understand about the main character:



What is his/her problem in the story?



BEGINNING:  What hooked you?  Do the characters seem real and different from one another?  Is this the best place to begin the story?



MIDDLE:  Was there enough tension or conflict?  Is there cause-and-effect throughout (i.e., does one thing cause the next thing to happen?)?  Were there any boring parts?  If so, where?




CLIMAX:  Was it as exciting as it could be?  Was it over too fast?




ENDING:  Did the character grow or change?  Was the ending satisfying to you?  Was it fair (i.e., no adult rescues or “it was all a dream” endings)?



DIALOGUE:  Does it sound real?  Does it help the reader know the character better?




SENSORY DETAILS:  Are there any?  Which senses did the author use?  Are the details rich and specific?  Which ones did you especially like?




MOTIVATION:  What do you understand about why the main character does what s/he does in the story?


WORD CHOICES:  Circle any weak verbs (action words).  Put a check mark over –ly words (adverbs).



COMMENTS FOR THE AUTHOR:  What did you like about the story?  Tell the author what, if anything, you didn’t understand.