Mistake 28: Writing Incidents, Not Scenes

70 Solutions to Common Writing Mistakes by Bob Mayer from The Writer’s Digest Writing Kit

Why this is a mistake: Too often, novice writers feel like they are losing the reader if they aren’t constantly barraging the reader with new scenes; the scenes become so short that they are no longer scenes, but incidents.

There are several problems with this. Barraging the reader with short scenes/incidents disrupts the narrative flow of the story. The reader feels overwhelmed by a storm of short incidents. You can’t keep a story constantly ramped up—a reader needs to decompress every now and then.

The solution: Slow down. Storytelling is the oldest profession. Once you hook the reader, take him along for the ride. A scene is a complete unit of conflict. It has its own protagonist, antagonist, start point, escalating conflict, climax, and resolution. In effect, a scene is almost a mini-book. If a scene has no conflict, then it isn’t a scene and needs to be discarded.

When approaching a scene, don’t concern yourself so much with what is going to be in the scene, but rather with what purpose it serves in advancing the plot and developing character.

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