Let me start by saying that, for me, red-eye flights are like perms: great idea until you get home and look in the mirror. Okay, enough about what my therapist calls The Perm of 92…
Rather than write one post on scenes, I’ve decided to cover the required elements separately, starting with the setting. Settings tell the reader where the action is taking place. For example, a bedroom, a car, a field. Every scene needs a setting and it should be defined right at (or near) the beginning of the scene. In my experience, there are three ways to define a setting:
1) The setting blurb. This is when the author writes a paragraph describing the setting. For example:
The school cafeteria was a basic, square room. Fluorescent lights beamed throughout the room, which was packed with beige tables sitting on top of a beige linoleum floor. Even the walls were beige.
2) Setting with perspective. This is when the author sets the scene from the perspective of a character. For example:
The moment I walked into the square room known as the school cafeteria, the fluorescent lights beamed in my eyes. I looked around the room. It was packed with beige tables sitting on top of a beige linoleum floor. Even the walls were beige.
3) Setting with reaction. This is when the author sets the scene using the reaction of a character. For example:
I rushed into the square room known as the school cafeteria, squinting the moment the fluorescent lights pierced through my retina. Great. Every single one of the beige tables was full. Well, except for the one where Laney Smith sat. Guess it would be another one of those days where my lunchtime conversation was about as exciting as the cafeteria’s beige walls.
Personally, I think the third one is best because it gives us the setting while also telling us how that setting affects the main character. Without this, we have detail without meaning, which to me, reads something like “blah blah blah, beige walls, blah blah blah”. But with it, we are drawn even closer into the character’s head, which is exactly where you want the reader to be.
To implement this in your own writing, I’d suggest you identify the details in your scenes and then ask yourself these questions: 1) Who is experiencing this detail? 2) How is it affecting them? and 3) Why should the reader care? If you cannot answer all three of these items, select the detail and then press the Delete key until it is gone.