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Thursday, 10 July 2014


Here it is folks, the post I've been promising you for a few days now. How to set the scene in your next story by Nikolas Baron. Nick has a lot of experience with the written word. Here's a short bio:

Nikolas discovered his love for the written word in Elementary School, where he started spending his afternoons sprawled across the living room floor devouring one Marc Brown children’s novel after the other and writing short stories about daring pirate adventures. After acquiring some experience in various marketing, business development, and hiring roles at internet startups in a few different countries, he decided to re-unite his professional life with his childhood passions by joining Grammarly’s marketing team in San Francisco. He has the pleasure of being tasked with talking to writers, bloggers, teachers, and others about how they use Grammarly’s online proofreading application to improve their writing. His free time is spent biking, traveling, and reading.


Setting the Scene
Wikipedia defines a scene simply as a “unit of drama” in a work of fiction. While drama is one vital component of writing a scene, conflict is only the beginning of the purpose of creating a scene in a book. Books are made up, physically, of pages, printed with ink and bound into a bundle. Metaphysically, books are made up of words, ideas, actions, dialogue, conflict, emotion, and sensory imagery. All those items must be properly ordered, laid out in a clear sequence, and bound together by the author to create a story which will capture and hold the reader’s interest.
By focusing on each individual scene, the writer can build stronger characterization and imagery, improving the overall writing. An online proofreading program can be helpful in maintaining consistency, especially in names and details. It’s also useful to check for often-repeated words and phrases to avoid too much repetition, which may become boring or even distract the reader, interfering with the suspension of disbelief.
Every scene, whether it’s just a few paragraphs or fills several pages, must contribute something to the storyline. Setting is an important part of each individual scene. Since a scene is just one unit, a smaller part of a chapter, the setting doesn’t need to be fully established with each new scene. Setting can be alluded to in just a few words:
John breathed deeply, the scent of the fresh-mown grass tickling his nose. He resisted the urge to sneeze. The sound would only give away his position, crouching under the window, behind the hedge. He’d found the best hiding spot in the neighborhood, and he wasn’t about to lose the game because of his allergies.
In this scene, the protagonist, John, is hiding. If the final sentence were altered, the entire scene could take on a much more sinister air, and become a murder mystery or spy novel. The scene itself is a building block, one of many that the writer uses to construct the story. The setting, in this case, is outdoors, probably in a residential neighborhood.
Conflict is what drives any story forward. Without it, there is no energy, no reason for the reader to continue turning pages. Without conflict, there is no story. Each scene must contain some type of conflict:
When Monica was seventeen, she left home. She took two of my favorite CD’s and Mom’s pale blue cashmere sweater, the one Dad liked. She took all her most important things, her jeans and make up, too-tight tee-shirts with screen printed sayings on them, and the glass unicorn I bought her for Christmas. She left behind her family. Mom, Dad, me, and her daughter, Rebecka.
Conflict can be created between the mundane and the emotionally significant. In the above example, the items Monica chose to take with her were mostly small, unimportant personal things. Clothes, CDs, makeup, insignificant possessions, which contrast sharply with what she chose to leave behind: her family, and her daughter. The conflict between what she took, and what she left behind, sets the foundation for the narrator’s resentment. The conflict is established and the reader begins to get a feeling for the kind of flighty, irresponsible teen Monica was when she left home, and to understand the narrator’s resentment. This scene sets the tone of the story to come, leaving the reader to wonder what became of Monica, whether she returns, whether her priorities have changed since she left home, and how her actions will affect the family she abandoned.
Breaking each chapter down into individual elements not only makes writing a longer work seem less overwhelming; it focuses and tightens the writing as well. If a chapter seems to meander without any recognizable progress in the plot, breaking it down to the individual scenes may provide insight into why the story is bogging down. Each scene, in order to justify its place in the book, should, in some way, move the story forward, either by establishing the setting and mood, or by creating conflict and revealing the motivations and history of the characters.
If you have any questions concerning this article, please comment below. If you've learned something from it, let us know. It is always nice to learn something new and to be able to apply what you learn in your own work. Happy Writing and Reading everyone!

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