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5 Techniques for Crafting Compelling Scenes

Despite how brilliant a story premise is, it would mean nothing without an appropriate scene to prop it up. You may have extraordinary characters hovering on every page. But they need to be doing something interesting for your readers to care about them. It is easy to enter the pitfall of creating scenes that aren't compelling. You need to find ways to make them unique and captivating, and here are five techniques to help you with that.

1. Let the Purpose be Known

There is always an instant or interaction in every scene that defines its purpose. Each of your scenes should have a moment you aim to highlight, a focal point that is essential to the rest of the story. This could be a few lines in a dialogue that send your story on a different trajectory or an action that increases the suspense. It can be as subtle as a sober reflection that strengthens the hero's resolve or as explicit as a gunshot to the skull. You need to identify what that moment is so you are fully aware of the purpose of writing a scene and achieve it. If any of a scene doesn't contain such a highlight, you should remove or rewrite it.

2. Use Expositions Sparingly

Any time you give an exposition in narrative form, you pause the narration of the current event in a scene. And if you are not careful, these expositions can slow down and choke off a splendid scene. You need to seek out ways to reduce excess expositions in your scenes. You can cut them out if they are unnecessary for the story or delay them if you don't need them at the moment. If possible, allow the characters to tender this information through dialogue. The less exposition in your scenes, the better.

3. Envision the Details

To create a graphic scene, you need to describe a physical setting in rich detail. Producing these details requires imagination, your ability to visualize a scene, and the close eye technique comes in handy. Here, close your eyes and try to envision a given scene, then write the description of everything your mental eye can see. Conjure as many details as you can and write their description as vivid as possible, then return to what you have written and cut out what you don't need. This method gives you a lot of raw materials to work with in creating a vivid scene.

4. Create your Own Spin

Try to avoid cliches in your scenes. If the characters, descriptions, or dialogue in your scenes are very typical, they won't engage readers. It is natural for our minds to think up a familiar idea, and the work of a creative to flip those ideas. Try to give a typical scene a unique spin. Add something that makes it exceptional. Two teenagers, a boy and a girl, dressed in their Sunday best, in a limousine, on their way to prom is a pretty familiar scene. But what if they are two boys, one is holding a gun, and the other has a gunshot wound, and their limo is in a car chase with a fleet of police cars blaring sirens behind it. Here, we took a familiar scene and added new elements to give it a unique spin, do the same to your cliche scenes.

5. Let the Dialogue Lead the Way

One way to find an undercurrent for your scene that you may not have considered is by writing an entire scene with dialogue. Here, you just allow the conversation to flow until something pops. Consider this argument between a couple:

"I won't visit your parents, period!”

“Then I'm not going for another one of your stupid dinner parties.”

“Suit yourself.”

“Oh, I will. And rule out this weekend's trip as well!"


“Why? You finally get some alone time with your sexy secretary?”

The last line in the dialogue seems to be leading to something interesting. This could result in a scene about the wife revealing that she has gone through the husband's text messages and is convinced that he is having an affair with his secretary. It's stunning the possibilities this technique can produce, and you should definitely try it out.

Written by Readers’ Favorite Reviewer Frank Stephen