How To Bring Life And Fluency to Each Scene In Your Novel

In my last post, How To Build Suspense In Your Novel, I explored how to create the suspense in your novel but one of the points I mentioned was to focus on the scenes in your story.

As you dive into writing, you’ll likely be working scene by scene. When you tackle these discrete sections of text in your first, second or third round of edits, you’ll want to make sure each scene supports the overall development of your story.

Below are tips on how to bring life and fluency to each scene in your novel.

Scenes should propel the overarching goal of your work and flow in the same direction.

Once you finish your first draft, the next step is to start your round of edits. On my first manuscript, I dove straight into editing, not really having a game plan for the overall story. Now I have a list of what I should be looking for in each edit (which I’ll share with you next post) and in the “scene edit” round I focus on each scene.

Each scene should stand alone, make it dazzling enough to inform your reader of the necessary plot information, exciting enough to create interest, and interesting enough to cause the reader to keep going. However, these scenes shouldn’t be disconnected from the overall goal of your final piece.

What do you hope to accomplish with your main character?

This answer should be applicable to every scene.

Each scene should platform on the previous scenes behind it, much like a journey down a river. The river should flow in one direction and there shouldn’t be any long excursions into the woods and beyond. Don’t let your reader leave the river behind. Diversions like rapids and menacing boulders are great for creating tension, but for the most part, flowing down-river should be where the reader stays.

Have a clear POV and stick to it.

This might seem like an obvious point but it needs to be said – don’t head hop. Choose first person, second person, third person limited, or third person omniscient and then stick with that POV for the entire scene.

Do not ever deviate from this rule.

Linking scenes and the middle should compliment both ends.

Do make every effort to let the first part of your scene shine and show how its related to the scene just passed. You want to pique your readers interest immediately as you take them into the action. Don’t bore them with the heavy back-story. That’s summarizing and not applicable to a scene. The end of the scene should feel the same way.

Do leave your reader wanting more. Cliffhangers are a wonderful tool to aid in this goal. These are the bookends of your scene. Do make sure your middle doesn’t wander from your goal.

Show don’t tell.

Do make the point of your scene clear through visuals, sounds, dialogue, and action.

It’s the most common advice in the writing community but in your scenes make sure you use your senses and shoe your character’s emotions through actions.

Don’t write something like, “She had decided that this life wasn’t for her. She was fed up and needed a change.” How did she arrive at this decision? What happened? Where was she? What time of day was it? Who was she with? Do ask yourself these questions and then answer them as you build your scene. Show the reader her disgust as she watches the world pass her by. Do show the reader her determination to move in a different direction as she packs up her things and looks at a door for the last time. Leave your readers on a high note or a low note, but always leave them wanting more.

Is it a down moment? Is your character at a low point? If so, make it clear. Show us what your main character is dealing with, don’t tell us. Don’t endlessly keep your characters in one state too long either. Do try to alternate between highs and lows to keep your pacing consistent. This will keep the flow going and will eliminate boring lulls in your story.

If you can keep your own details sharp, your dialogue clear and consistent, and your goals in mind, you should be able to write a scene that keeps your readers coming back for more.

If you have any more questions, make sure you post your questions, comments or/ and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, a question or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DouglasWTSmith #sceneediting

Scene Editing

5 thoughts on “How To Bring Life And Fluency to Each Scene In Your Novel

  1. This commentary does a great job of summarizing the points made repeatedly in critique groups and is a good reminder of what we are striving for as authors. I have to be always aware of my tendency to tell rather than show. By asking questions of how this state arose and what happened and what did my character do, I can show the story. R.R. Brooks (

  2. Oh my gods, POV. I don’t know how many times I’ve peer reviewed something and found POV problems. Head jumping, wrong perspective, or even straight up the wrong character telling the story. POV is one of the most important decisions you have to make.