Scene Writing, The Writing Life

Scene-Building: Middles


Last time, we talked about the different choices in constructing scene beginnings. Today is all about the middle. This is the meat of the scene – we have to carry through on the promise we made at the beginning, and start building the tension that will carry the story forward.

The middle of a scene is where all the conflict and obstacles come in. My approach is to first determine what type of scene it will be and then what tension-building technique works best alongside it.

While I’m going to go into more depth on scene types in later posts, I’ll give some examples here to help illustrate the correlation. Scene types include dramatic, contemplative, action, suspense, flashback, climactic – just to name a few. Your choice here will depend on story pacing and scene goals.

But today, let’s stick to an overview of the middle of a scene and how you can build anticipation that keeps your readers turning the page!

  1. Revelations: While you may think a revelation should come at the end of a scene or chapter, these unexpected discoveries fit perfectly in the middle. They can act as clues or foreshadowing events. Make sure to mix it up though – what you divulge here shouldn’t always be positive or negative. Revelations are great tension builders, but we never want our readers to know what’s coming. Similarly, these don’t always have to be earth-shattering. Small eye-openers can be crucial to a storyline or to a character’s development.
  2. The Withhold: This is the common literary prop otherwise known as the obstacle. And when discussing scene middles, we’re talking about what desire or goal is being withheld from the POV character, and why? This can be something concrete or intangible. We build tension for our readers when they watch the character struggle to secure something important to them.
  3. The Pitfall: This emergency or element of danger, like the withhold, may be of an emotional or physical nature. The difference in this technique is not actually WHAT it is, but rather HOW our character(s) respond to it. Do they face it head on or stand back in fear or cowardice? This is an opportunity to show who your character is without a word of physical description or backstory – how someone reacts to a situation can often say more about them that one would expect.

Think how great your story will flow if you treat every scene as a mini-story…taking care to ensure each scene has a purpose in driving the story forward. It may be a slower writing process, but the attention to detail can only set you up for success!

Next time, I’ll talk about two different types of scene endings – their purpose, and how to know which one fits your scene. For now…write on.

4 thoughts on “Scene-Building: Middles”

  1. Each scene as a mini-story is a new concept to me. Looking thru what I’ve written before I’m surprised to find I have unintentionally followed this adage. Other scenes are scattered, without focus, and lose impact as a result. I am taking each concept and applying it to my previous and current work. Sometimes its easy; other times not so much.


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