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Notes on Writing Fiction—Scenes and Chapters

By Clifford Morris

  • Every scene needs to contain conflict. When you look back on your work in the editing process, does each scene move the story forward and contain tension?

  • Summaries are not necessary if you have told your story effectively.

  • Chapters are an arbitrary way for the writer to break up the story. One way is to have each chapter be its own source. Then, when you look back, does each chapter, or scene, contribute to WHY the reader would CARE about this story. If not, rewrite or delete.

  • Much of how the reader perceives the main character comes from how the other characters describe and react to the main character.

  • Introduce interesting characters, then present a problem.

  • Moral choices create suspense. The characters MUST make choices.

  • Open-ended chapter endings where the reader anticipates but simply doesn't know what is going to happen next are an acceptable way to end a chapter. Don't overuse life or death cliffhangers.

  • POV change within a scene is acceptable ONLY when another character has such a strong reaction that a response in mandatory.

  • Continually raising the stakes the main character(s) confront along with heightened jeopardy and pressure they are under is the best way to induce suspense, fear, and page-turning enthusiasm in your reader.

  • Even character introspection and story exposition needs to be full of tension; the character is not just thinking but agonizing over a decision, weighing difficult choices, or contemplating illegal or unethical actions.

  • Find doors to pull the past (when needed) into the current story instead of stopping the action to relate a flashback.

  • Don't tell the reader what to think. Use the characters to persuade the reader to believe and accept what you are presenting in the story.


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Mar 17, 2023

All good points to keep in mind Clifford. I think I'm printing this out as a edit guide. Thanks.

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