Friday, September 3, 2010

Guest Blogger - Dorothy Howell

SCENE BY SCENE by Dorothy Howell

In your novel, each scene should be important. It should matter. It should move your story along, give important information to the reader, and reveal your characters for their true selves. In most cases, it should be a balance of dialogue, setting, and action. The greatest plot, the most colorful character, and wittiest dialogue won’t matter if scenes are cliché or boring.

Here are some things to think about as your write.


In life, you can get an idea of what someone is like by looking at them. But you won’t really know them until they speak. It’s the same with writing.

Dialogue brings your characters to life. Words, speech patterns and dialect reveal a great deal about them. Keep it crisp. Don’t bog your scene down with unnecessary phrases.

It’s a good idea to intersperse gestures, characters’ thoughts and actions with your dialogue. Use dialogue tags to make it easier for the reader to keep up with who’s saying what.


Most writers – myself included – love to do research. We spend hours on the Internet, in the library, and talking to experts to learn every detail of the world we’re creating for our novels. Unfortunately, readers aren’t always as excited about it as we are.

Too much exposition can bring a scene to a halt. The last thing you want is for a reader to grow bored with your descriptions and start to skim. Chances are, they’ll think twice before recommending your book to friends or buying the next one.

If a scene feels as if it’s dragging, try cutting some of your descriptions. Add more characters. Even a minor, throw-away character that causes problems can liven things up.


Keep it moving. While it’s important to have scenes in which your protagonist is thinking, analyzing clues or deciding what to do next, they don’t have to be dull. Try setting them in unusual places, or under difficult circumstances, such as while driving down a mountain road or walking through a dangerous neighborhood at dusk.

After writing each scene, ask yourself whether it has a purpose in your novel. Does it need to be there? Would it make any difference to your character or your plot if you took it out? If not, cut it.

Most importantly, have fun! If you’re having a good time writing your scenes, your reader will enjoy reading them.

Happy writing!

Dorothy Howell


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