Posted in Craft, The Nitty Gritty of Children's Writing

On Scene Please

I did it again—summarized an important scene. Fortunately, my critique group caught me. Of course, my main character should have been there instead of her mother telling her about it. Duh! I’d removed all tension.

September C. Fawkes said, “Anything the story has been building and building and building up to, should probably be a scene.” This statement really clarifies for me why I shouldn’t have summarized at that point in my story. What happened was a big deal.

C.S. Lakin said, “…focus on the emotional change in the character as he reacts to the new situational development that occurs…” If my character only hears the news her emotional changes are going to be weaker. And we don’t get to see the other character changing nor his emotions. I’m distancing my character and my reader by telling.

“Scenes tend to be much better at delivering tension and insight into character.” – TD Storm

So, why would I put something important off scene?

  • I wasn’t sure what should happen.
  • It felt difficult.
  • I was rushing to move forward.
  • I’d forgotten one of the main issues in my story.

All that’s okay in my first draft, but when revising, I need to look more closely at my scenes and my summaries. Here’s a definition by Eva Langston of the difference between the two: “In fiction writing, a scene is when the writer puts us directly into a specific place and time and shows us what’s happening through dialogue, action, internal thoughts, and description. Summary, on the other hand, is when the writer tells us something without creating a full scene.”

Basically, we summarize to jump ahead to the next important scene. Summaries include transitions such as time passing or characters doing mundane acts that don’t move the story forward. Summaries can set mood or tell the reader something they need to know. They’re telling instead of showing.

Sometimes summaries give backstory at the beginning of a book, but not in a boring way. Read the example Eva Langston gives in her article, “Summary and Scene in Fiction Writing: How and Why to Use them Both.”

But scene is what we really read for. It’s where we experience what’s happening with the character. It’s the drama. And I need to remind myself of that when writing.

In conclusion, here’s a quote for me to remember: “A good rule of thumb is, the more important the moment, the more likely it needs to be rendered as a scene.” – Fawkes

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3 thoughts on “On Scene Please

  1. Thank goodness for critique groups 🙂

    It is always feels so “Duh!” once you see the better way 😀

    Happy writing!

  2. You raise a pivotal matter for writers. Hearing about what happened (“tell”) and failing to show is often most evident in endings, when we need to tie it all up, and yes, our writerly horse is galloping to the end.

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