Each event in a story takes place within a scene, showing the reader the action as it happens.
Short stories typically consist of only one or two scenes, while novels contain many. They vary in length, with some only a few paragraphs long and others covering many pages. However, most scenes follow a pattern similar to the typical story arc, beginning with a hook, building conflict or tension in the middle, and ending with a change in time/place, or a suspenseful moment (cliffhanger).
Each scene should serve a purpose in the story. It might:
- introduce or develop a conflict, theme, or character
- establish the setting (time period or place)
- create atmosphere (romantic, suspenseful, etc.)
- provide information that moves the plot forward
An author may use exposition to summarize what’s going on rather than including scenes to show all of the action as it happens. This provides a transition between scenes, and helps adjust the pacing of the story.
How do you determine if a scene is necessary? Do you like scenes that end on cliffhangers?