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Scene Changes

I’ve been trying to think through how to explain thinking in scenes to young writers in a way that makes it accessible. It seems they either write two scenes and call it done (when it really isn’t enough) or they write micro-scenes, making about 50 of them when there should only be four. How do we help students think in scenes? Today Shelley Kunkle (seventh grade language arts teacher extraordinaire) and I brainstormed a few possibilities.

  1. If the action changes place or time then there is a new scene.
  2. If there is a shift in the conflict (or to a new conflict) then there is a new scene.
  3. If a character enters the scene and the action shifts then there is a new scene.

Can you think of other ways a scene shifts?


narrative, plan

Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

2 thoughts on “Scene Changes Leave a comment

  1. I usually ask students to think about scenes as they plan, before they get into the writing. (Though the need for a new scene may come up in revision, I find that more often writers revise within the structure they’ve already got, developing one scene more or cutting another down.). I usually talk about scenes in a traditional story structure way, one to establish the characters and conflict, and then it’s either problem-problem-problem (with each being a scene where the problem’s happening again/getting bigger) OR it’s attempt-attempt-attempt (with each being an attempt to solve the problem). With stronger/older writers, you’ve got to get some layers going to a problem, so each scene is working to move the outside story, AND the inside story. But, again, I find most writers working to make this happen inside of that original structure we planned at the start… I think all of this is just a different (clearer? Dumbed-down?) way of saying your second possibility: If there is a “shift in the conflict”. I’m pretty sure my elementary students wouldn’t know what that meant, so I try to find ways to articulate that (without being too overly simplistic, hopefully!).


  2. To add interest–away from the every day home or school setting–maybe at a drugstore, a trip to McD’s, a T.J. Maxx store (new in Warsaw!), a park, a favorite meeting place. I know these are different places, but maybe these interesting places (to them) will add zing to their stories. It’s all about zing today!!!


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