That’s the way we hear it: Work in scene. And what does that mean exactly?
A scene in nonfiction or fiction, as in drama, is a unit of time in which movement happens. The movement can be real motion; it can be inner movement; it can be verbal; and it can be imagined.
The movement says, This happened, then this happened.
In other words, a scene is a block of time in which some interaction, usually important (although its importance may be in its commonality), happens.
A scene operates at the level of the tangible and sensual. People walk around wearing things, eating things, doing things, saying things, smelling things, and dreaming things, as my writing teacher William Kittredge said to me. Stuff needs to happen.
…is the showing. It is a body in action. Scene is important because the human mind, in this case the mind of the reader, functions best when presented with movement, as opposed to immobility. You need, then, a body—a character—less than an idea.
The best essay I’ve ever read on showing is Flannery O’Connor’s classic piece in Mystery and Manners called “Writing Short Stories.” Everything she says about fiction in that essay applies to creative nonfiction. She says, “No reader who doesn’t actually experience, who isn’t made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer tells him” and “Fiction writing is very seldom a matter of saying things; it is a matter of showing things.”
Many people who have a desire to write and are honoring a deep impulse inside themselves at first have difficulty identifying a scene or even recognizing the difference between showing and telling. If you are one of these folks, no worries, because this isn’t easy.
Like riding a bike, however, once you can recognize a scene once, you always can.
Are You Interested in Learning More About This?
I am teaching a *FREE* workshop “How to Write in Scenes” On Sunday, July 23, 2023 from 7-8pm Eastern Time.
It’s free but you will have to register in order to get the Zoom link, and registration is here. Or click the button below.
Writing in scene is the *best* way to avoid the jinx of narrative, and by that I mean the boringness and stiffness of narrative. Scenes make your writing come alive.
I’d love to tell you more about scenes and get you excited about them. Bring a journal and pencil to the workshop, because we’ll be writing!