What a Scene!: Four Ways to Improve your Scene Writing

What makes a scene engaging to your reader? I try to evoke at least two senses when describing a scene. Are there any smells? What does your character see? Is he or she touching anything? Does he or she taste anything? Don’t go overboard and bog your reader down with details. A little goes a long way. If you come up with a great description but already used a few, save it for the next time the character feels this emotion.

On top of solidifying what is around my character, I ask myself “If I were in this situation, how would I feel?”I then add in what my emotions would be like, or what I would be thinking if I were in a similar situation.

Also, if I want to describe a certain situation, I feel that emotion and describe it. For example, if I decide my character is angry, I remember the last time I was angry or think of something that makes me angry. Then I analyze what my body is doing. What does my face look like? I have a tendency to wrinkle up my nose when disgusted or angry, so I make my characters do this too! Did I ball up my fists? Are my teeth clenched? I also pay attention to my internal body settings. Is my pulse racing? Am I sweating (or would I be sweating in the situation I am describing)?

Now I’m going to throw a curve ball your way: Try to describe all this without using a form of the verb to be (like: am, was, is). Don’t say something like:

He was sweating.

It gets the point across but is boring. You can do this, but try to describe things using the verb to be sparingly. Instead shoot for:

The hot sweat trickled down his red face as he balled his fists up in anger.

Have fun with it! How many different ways can you describe the same emotion? Practice makes perfect.

To recap:

  1. Try to describe one or more senses (but no more than a few if it is a short paragraph. You don’t want it to get tedious to your reader).
  2. What does your character feel and what does this look like?
  3. Avoid the verb to be and try to use other verbs to keep the momentum going.
  4.  Practice, practice, practice!