Bridge to Story

More Ways to Make a Scene

Here, we’re coming up with our own series of question to ask yourself about a scene you’re writing.  These are helpful for scenes you’ve begun— that now could use some fleshing out in the area of Setting. Or for scenes you’re only thinking about writing.

This is an interview, with you the writer, about your intentions. They all question your piece:

The trick to a setting that works on lots of levels is once you’ve established the setting – let your story use it in many other ways than just letting the reader know where we are.

After going deeper than I have in the example, on a separate piece of paper (you can work at thoroughly describing your setting), take a look at your scene/chapter/story.  Has any of the setting you’ve worked out on paper been reflected in your piece?

If not, some of the points you’ve set down do need to be seen in the piece. 

  • Remember not to use ALL of the setting information you’ve listed.
  • Do not use it like this: It was night, I sat in the kitchen.  Only the stove light was on, I was alone.

Try to not rely on TELLING or explaining to the reader any of your setting points from your list. Instead use senses (in the ways listed in the exercise) to allow your characters’ circumstances and reactions  reflect your setting points.

Example Toggle


 Example of questions to ask yourself about a scene. Make up any questions you want - this is you interviewing you about your intentions.  This novice came up with these Q & A's for herself:

  1. Indoors/Outdoors?      The alley
  2. Day or night?   After lunch: day
  3. A lighted place or dark?         Broad Daylight
  4. In public or private?    Only 1 guy there with Rikki
  5. Busy atmosphere or calm?      Dead quite
Lesson Exercise 1 Toggle

Lesson Exercise 1:

So we have a list of setting points listed to work from. Here’s what they look like so you can answer them for your story:

    Space/Where          Indoors/Outdoors?

    Time/When              Day or night?

    Physical/How          A lighted place or dark?

    Specific/Where        In public or private?

    Visual/What             Busy atmosphere or calm?

And we know not to try TELLING the reader any of your setting points outright.

Instead we'll aim at using senses to allow your characters’ circumstances and reactions to reflect our setting points. Remember you can use setting to reflect character, tone:

For a character, use setting like this: (I, Me, My, Mine or Rikki, she, her, it)

  • Sound: The crunch of the pill bottle sounded under Rikki’s heel.
  • Smell:  A stew of garbage from the dumpster burned her nose.
  • Taste:  When he said that, she tasted those words at the back of her throat.
  • Touch: But Rikki pushed it away with a long-lasting breath.

For the tone of the scene use setting like this: (this is a new example)

  • Weather, seasons: A hunter moon, tangled in the tree branch watched over me as I sat alone in the dark. 
  • Time of Day: These pre-dawn hours, drained of warmth . . .

 Place in time: In the mid-seventies insomnia took me, most every night, into the dark of my kitchen . . .

For the emotions of the scene use setting like this:

 Inanimate object as a mirror of emotion: The ticking of the wall clock mimicked my heart, the lonely tick, tock, mocking my solitude.

Now, let's take your own idea for a setting and run it though this exercise. Remember: Showing senses, tone, emotions, not Telling about a setting outright.

Try a setting in three ways. For a Character. For tone. For emotions.