How Writing in Scenes Unlocked My Writer’s Block


How do you structure your thought process when you write? Do you write as a stream of consciousness? In snippets? In scenes? Shifting how you create structure can help with getting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, as I found out in college.

When I was younger, I would think of a story as one big structure and it would feel overwhelming to start writing. How do you even begin to tell a massive story that covers decades, or years, or even weeks? I didn’t really understand how to break these big stories in my head down into manageable chunks.

When I went to theatre school, I started thinking about stories in terms of scenes. When you’re working on stage, a scene is typically in a single location. It has a beginning, middle, and an end; the characters either get what they want, or they don’t. A scene can often stand by itself as a mini story, and this shift in my head helped me to structure my own stories differently.

Now, when I start thinking about a new novel, one of my steps is to break down the story into scenes. Just like on TV, on stage, or in a movie, I have to set each scene: Where are we? Who is present? What do they want? Are they going to get it? The conflict between characters who want different things in the same scene is the core of creative tension; the flow from scene to scene creates a story.

If this doesn’t make sense to you as a structure, try watching your favourite TV show or movie and examining how they break down the story. How do they introduce characters? Settings? Conflicts? How do they start and end scenes? When you recognize the characteristics of good storytelling, you can begin to implement those characteristics in your own work.

Do you think in scenes when you write or do you approach stories another way? Let me know in the comments!

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