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Chapter 4: Plotting: Scenes, Sequels, and Narrative

Novel Scenes, the Basics

Melissa Ford Lucken

In a novel, a scene is a self-contained unit of storytelling that takes place in a specific time and location. It is a building block of the narrative structure and contributes to the overall progression of the story. Here are some key characteristics of a scene:


A scene serves a specific purpose in the narrative, such as advancing the plot, revealing character traits, providing important information, or creating conflict and tension.


Each scene occurs in a particular setting, which includes the physical environment, time of day, and any relevant details that create a vivid sense of place.


Scenes involve one or more characters who interact with each other, engage in dialogue, and perform actions or gestures that drive the scene forward.

Conflict and Tension

Scenes often involve some form of conflict or tension, whether it’s an argument, a confrontation, a decision to be made, or an obstacle to overcome. This conflict propels the story and engages the reader.

Beginning, Middle, and End

Like a mini-story within the larger narrative, a scene has its own structure with a clear beginning, middle, and end. It typically starts with an inciting incident or hook that grabs the reader’s attention, develops through various actions and events, and concludes with a resolution or a cliffhanger.

Emotional Arc

A scene may have its own emotional trajectory, where characters experience and express a range of emotions that contribute to their development and the overall emotional tone of the story.


Scenes are connected through transitions, which can be explicit or implicit. Transitions help maintain the flow and coherence of the narrative, smoothly moving from one scene to the next.

Length and Focus

Scenes can vary in length, from a few paragraphs to several pages, depending on the needs of the story. Each scene has a specific focus or objective, whether it’s revealing a crucial piece of information, showcasing a character’s growth, or escalating the conflict.


A well-crafted scene leaves an impact on the reader, evoking emotions, creating suspense, or deepening the understanding of the characters and their motivations.

Scenes play a crucial role in developing the story and engaging readers by immersing them in specific moments of the narrative. They contribute to the pacing, characterization, and overall structure of the novel, allowing for dynamic storytelling and capturing the reader’s attention and imagination.


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Novel Scenes, the Basics by Melissa Ford Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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