As writers, we often get so caught up in making sure we have all the proper elements in place we forget who our stories are meant for—the reader.
Most readers know nothing of the work that goes into building a story from the ground up.
They’re merely looking for a great story.
One that draws on their heartstrings, allows them to step outside their dreary lives, and has them dying to know what happens next.
These are the elements we need to capture in our stories.
For they are more important than writing the perfect novel because even the best-written story can fail if the writer forgets to take the reader into account during the writing process.
Since scenes are the body of the story and hold everything together, we will take a closer look at what they need to accomplish to keep the reader turning the pages.
It Should Have a Purpose
Every scene should have a reason for being there, to either further the plot or allow the reader to get to know the main characters a little better.
This is its central focus. The one thing the whole scene revolves around, preferably something action-oriented.
For example: breaking out of a heavily-guarded prison, or a character’s fear of heights forcing them to trek through monster-infested wilderness rather than cross a bridge over a ravine to safety.
It Should Present New Information
We should always be looking for ways to pique our reader’s interest, as well as move the story forward.
Each scene should present at least one new piece of information connected to its purpose, but we can also use a mix of plot, character, and future conflict.
But we don’t want to go overboard. We don’t want to overwhelm the reader, and we need enough for all our scenes.
So, spread them throughout the story so that every scene has something of interest.
There Should Be Something at Stake
In order to get our readers to care, they need to have a reason to worry.
We need them to sympathize with what our protagonist is going through and fear they might fail.
We want to keep our readers on their toes, and we can do this through a series of close calls and actual failures.
There should always be heavy consequences for failure and enough uncertainty as to what the results might be to keep the readers hanging on our every word.
It Should Make the Reader Continue to the Next Scene
At the end of every scene, we should leave the reader wondering what happens next.
This can be the answer to a question, the consequences of the character’s actions, or anything that grabs our reader’s interest and makes them turn the page.
It really doesn’t matter what it is as long as the answer is unpredictable, and it keeps them reading.
The answer doesn’t even have to be in the next scene if it keeps the momentum going and the reader hooked.
We just have to be sure we do eventually provide an answer, or we’re going to have some pissed-off readers.
Nobody likes to be left hanging, so we want to make sure we always tie off all our loose ends.
Focus on the story and how you want your readers to feel in every scene.
Remember: if you’re not interested, your reader won’t be either. The reader experience is more important than any rules of writing.
Be the reader.
FOR FURTHER READING
Renea strives to help writers develop the focus and skills they need to finish their first novel, offering writers practical writing advice they can apply one step at a time.
She is the author of Conquering Writing Pressures: Living a Balanced Writing Life in a Busy World where she helps writers find the courage to accept life will never be perfect. And if we want our dreams to succeed, we must fight to make them a reality.
She currently lives in St. Joseph, Missouri, with her husband Joe, her three children, and her five lovable furballs.
From a young age, Renea was mad for books and reading, and especially loved Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series, which she read in the ninth grade.
She is an avid reader, with her main interests residing in history, mythology, and fantasy, along with some romance and science fiction in her earlier years.
When Renea’s not writing, she enjoys genealogy, role-playing games, and dreams of traveling the world. In a past life, she plucked chickens and milked cows.