We’ve been focused on scenes, the building blocks of novels, for the last few weeks. A scene is a three-part piece of your novel set in space and time, and should always have a purpose for being included in the novel. Scenes should move your story forward. Always.
Scene endings can allow your reader inhale if your scene has been particularly dynamic, or it can intrigue your reader and force them to turn the page if you have included some hook or dynamic plot twist. The scene ending is the perfect place for your character to summarize what is going on, and gives your reader a way of judging your character’s emotional state, and sum up the conflict. Do be careful not to over use the character summary aspect. It slows the pace of the novel.
You can also use your scene ending to create tension and drama by provide the reader an important revelation that twists the plot, or gives the reader a surprise. The cliffhanger ending is used because it makes certain that your reader can not know the outcome of the story, and so must keep reading. The cliffhanger leaves your character in peril and creates suspense.
Scene endings can also distance the reader from the events of the scene by providing a visual description, which simply pauses the story to visually show what is. Be sure to include all of your character’s senses. Drawing the reader away from the scene allows the reader to see something visually and can be a good way to end a scene, especially if the character has had much movement. It can help your reader to ground themselves in your character’s space and time.
Sometimes characters will wax philosophically at the end of a scene. This kind of scene ending works best for first person narrative, because the reader is much more inside the head of the character, and also if your novels is character driven rather than plot driven. If your character wouldn’t wax philosophically don’t force them to do this at the end of the scene, however. It will make your character’s behavior suspect to your reader.
Sometimes the ending is just an ending, and there is no need to do any of the above. This scene ending doesn’t need to summarize, or provide new information. It just needs to close the scene so the character or reader can move on. Use this idea to tie up any lose ends of your story. Make sure the scene ending feels final. Keep in mind that this does not mean that this scene ending is only for the conclusion of your novel. Sometimes it is for the end of a relationship, or some other thing which is completed. This scene ending shows your reader the finality of your character’s actions, thoughts, or feelings about a particular moment.
If you think about writing your scenes, each with a beginning, middle, and ending, and you think about what kind of beginning, middle, or ending you want to write based on the information you want to give to your reader, you will discover that your novel will have more of a sense of movement. Scenes help your characters move forward, and keep you, the author, from stagnating on the page by overusing prose. Scenes will keep you from getting sidetracked on things that don’t matter to your story.
Next time: More detail on setting the stage of your scenes…scene setting.