Anatomy of a Scene

Writing Dramatic Scenes

Last time we discussed the elements necessary for writing suspenseful scenes, and why that was important. This week I thought we would focus on a particular type of scene, specifically the dramatic scene.

The dramatic scene allows your characters to deliver a wide array of emotions, and can allow you to use emotions to move your story forward. These emotions include everything to gratitude to tantrums and are written in a way that will emotionally affect the reader.

The dramatic scene can be written around a fight, a betrayal, obsession over an object or another character, or any other concept of high emotion. The goal of the dramatic scene is to move your characters toward change. Your character will be forced to make decisions based on the complications which arise from the emotional content presented in the scene, and this decision will force your character to go a different direction than they previously intended. Note that dramatic scenes tend to show up toward the middle and end of novels rather than in the first act.

Start the scene with a slower pace. Be sure to include all the necessary scene setting your reader will need to ground themselves in space and time. Then use dialogue, action, and high emotional content to speed up the pace of the scene until the climax of the scene. Then allow your character a moment of reflection and decision making, so they can move forward in a different direction.

  • Use the relationships of your characters to bring them closer together or the break them apart
  • Use your character’s actions to support inner conflict
  • Use both hot (passion, rage) and cold (shock, internal grief) emotions to direct the drama and draw the reader in.
  • Use foreboding
  • Use interaction with other characters
  • Use confrontation, threat of death (or harm), or ruined expectations
  • Do NOT use exposition which is boring and NOT dramatic
  • Do not write your scene with hysterics or unrealistic action or you will move into melodrama (not a good thing)

Remember that dramatic scenes should focus on the character’s feelings so they will reach an emotional climax which then forces your character to change, either through epiphany or contemplation.

The added dramatic scene will entice your reader to turn the page and also help your character move forward to the end.

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