Return to Content How to write a scene: Purpose and structure Knowing how to write a scene is a crucial skill for writing a novel.
I fell asleep at the wheel, and I drove into a tree. Here is another way to write the same scene. I awoke to the violent crunch of metal on wood, the hiss of the radiator, and the sickly sweet smells of antifreeze and gasoline.
Adding the sights, smells, and sounds allows the reader to imagine the moment. In addition to the five traditional senses—sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound, use of the sixth sense—mood not the ability to see dead people is equally important to writing rich, believable scenes.
It can also be called tone. Whatever you call it, even the most detailed description can fall totally flat without deliberate evocation of the appropriate emotion.
Below are two examples that each have a particular tone or mood that enhances the actual description. I opened my eyes to find my Caddy hugging a tree; its shiny blue hood was now ruffled like a prom dress, the radiator was sighing like a lover, and the sweet aromas of antifreeze and gasoline danced to the rhythmic tinks and pops of the car as it settled into its arboreal embrace.
Bits of bark, leaves, and metal shards everywhere. I pass a tongue over my smarting lip. What is that smell? The imagery and metaphors suggest a lighter, less scary writing a scene setting ks24194.
Though, the reader could reasonably assume that the speaker is not in his or her right mind, too. The second example uses short sentence style and staccato pacing to evoke a panicked tone. Details are fed to the reader in the order that the narrator notices them.
Interjections of emotive phrases heighten the sense of danger. His stories were fictional, but his descriptions of his home-city were thoroughly researched and deliberately realistic.
They resonate with us even now, long after that city has been replaced by a modern metropolis. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill.
Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers.
Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great and dirty city.
Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats.
Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds. It was a muddy and foggy November day in London.
If you have some experience of London, or fog, or mud, or typical English November weather, you might be able to conjure a significant mental image. If you know Dickens wrote it, and you knew a little bit about him, you might imagine a few more details.
If not, this would give you little to work with. The tone is flat, lifeless. The reader is not given a clear indication of how to feel about it, except by his or her own pre-judgments about fog, mud, November, or London. Although this scene was contemporary to him, even a modern reader can picture the context of this moment… the omnipresent fog and the primordial mud that seeps into every crevice of life, hindering man and animal alike.
Keep the details the same, but change the word choice and metaphors to create a different mood. Do this for at least one other tone, if not two.
Please post your versions as comments.Having trouble writing a scene? Try these 21 prompts to create more depth to your prose.
Having trouble writing a scene? Try these 21 prompts to create more depth to your prose. Join us on social media. Write It Sideways.
21 writing prompts for setting a scene in your novel. When writing fiction (or even narrative nonfiction), scenes are microcosms of your larger plot. Each scene takes us into a crucial moment of your characters’ story and should engage both our emotions and our minds by creating real-time momentum or action.
Creative Writing Worksheet – Set the Scene (PDF) How do you set the scene to write? A glass of wine, a pair of earplugs, a muse card, a writing worksheet? Sounds perfect to me!:) You can find a complete PDF of all of the writing worksheets to date in the Coterie.
Writing Worksheet Wednesday: Set the Scene. by Eva, in category Writing. Writers should use all five senses when evoking the setting in a story. This exercise will help fiction writers pick the right words to evoke a feeling. She's also the author of the writing guides Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time and Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life.
Martha Alderson dedicates herself to teaching the structure of plot and has helped thousands of novelists, memoirists, and creative nonfiction writers master plot. There’s been a certain amount of scene setting for going on here at present.
I’ve moved my roll-top desk, the centre of my creative universe, from the back of the room where for some reason I had my back to the window and trees.