Many of the writers I know tend to get pulled into the scenes they write – I know I do. The feeling of being there, in that place with those people is seductive. Often it’s much more fun than being part of the scenes of everyday life. The fictional characters you are dealing with are much easier to manage than people in your real world – people who have a regrettable tendency to exhibit a will and motivations of their own.
But are you getting full value from each of your scenes? As you plan your scene – who will be in it, what they will do and how they will feel and be motivated to further action – what are you going to get from it.
Yes, it will further the plot. What else can it do?
It can deepen character. It can throw a new light or a deeper light on each person in the scene. Every line you write illuminates the people. It shows in their words, intonations, movements. For your viewpoint character it shows a manner of understanding, thinking and instinctive reaction.
It can add dimension to your setting. If you are writing a historical novel or fantasy or science fiction the details of the setting are important – if you don’t show these details the readers will not get the full value of the story. You might think that if the setting is a suburban kitchen or a cube farm in a high-rise office building most people would understand with just a quick word sketch. But maybe not.
And even if it is, say, an ordinary suburban kitchen what does it tell you about the people who live there? Is it messy or obsessively tidy? Are the appliances the latest state-of-the-art? Is it a comfortable gathering place with an old dog curled up on the mat?
Is this kitchen or cube farm the best place to put this scene, or could the dialogue and action play out somewhere better? A different house? The street? the lobby?
The setting makes a difference. Little Ms Domestic will feel at home and more confident in her kitchen while Mr CEO is rather out of place. In the cube farm the positions are reversed. If you place the scene in an airport or on a riverbank how will that affect the action?
As you write this scene, what are you setting up for the future? Is Ms Domestic hoping to get a job, and will she have an affair with Mr CEO? Or maybe you’re setting her up to steal the company secrets. Do you need to foreshadow something important for later?
Or perhaps it’s early in the book and you need to let slip a few nuggets of back story. You might feel it is important for your readers to discover that sweet little Ms Domestic used to be a fighter pilot or that the CEO is dyslexic.
Any or all of these can play their role in your scene in addition to it merely advancing your plot. You can probably think of more examples for yourself. Use them to enrich every scene you write.