woman reading a book
writing a novel,  writing fiction

Writing a Scene

A novel consists of scenes.

The way that you string your scenes together determines your plot, which is simply the events that happen to your characters.

All fiction must have scenes. Without scenes, there is no story. Once you understand how to structure a scene, you will be able to write powerful scenes that will produce page-turning novels.


The POV character for each scene must have a goal. The reader must understand that goal and what will happen if the POV character doesn’t attain that goal. For example, in a romance a scene goal may be for the heroine to find out the name of the hero. You can state the goal through action, dialogue, or description. Perhaps, the heroine is attending a party and she notices a handsome man across the room. She could mention to her friend, “That guy is so attractive over there. I have to find out his name. If I don’t, I’ll never be the same.” Dialogue tends to be the easiest way to state a character’s goal as well as what will happen if the character doesn’t attain the goal.


After the goal is stated, the scene must include some conflict or obstacles to that stated goal. In keeping with the romance example, maybe the heroine attempts to cross the room and someone, like her boss, intercepts her before she can reach the hero. Then she spots him outside by the pool, but before she can approach him, another woman begins talking to him. Again, she tries to track him down by the food table, but a waiter spills a drink down the front of her dress and she has to run to the bathroom to wash it off. One obstacle after another prevents the heroine from attaining her goal.

Conflict is merely preventing a character from obtaining his/her goal.


The next part of the scene is the disaster. The word disaster may conjure up ideas of earthquakes, floods, fires, or deaths, but in a scene, the disaster is simply not allowing the POV character to attain his/her goal. So with this example, after the heroine emerges from the bathroom, she can’t find the handsome man and she is thwarted in her attempt to obtain his name.


After your POV character experiences the disaster, or the inability to reach her goal, she must have a reaction.

For example, let’s go back to the heroine in this romance example. She sees an attractive man at a party. He’s across the room, and she tells her friend she must have his phone number (goal). She attempts to cross the room but is intercepted by her boss (conflict). She tries again but now the attractive man is speaking to another woman (conflict). One more time she attempts to go talk to him, but a waiter spills a drink down her dress (conflict). After she cleans her dress, the man is gone (disaster).

Conflict can be defined as something that is preventing the character from trying to realize her goal and the disaster is when the character does not attain that goal.

Now, it’s time for reaction. How would this character react to her situation? She might be angry, upset, annoyed, or laugh it off. But, she needs some kind of a reaction to the disaster she has suffered. (Remember, the disaster does not have to be life threatening or cataclysmic, only that the character did not obtain her goal).

She may think about what has happened and try to internalize it. Sometimes, this part is referred to as the sequel. The character is reflecting on what has happened—it’s internal monologue. If, however, your character is reacting to the disaster by talking to another person then it is considered a scene.

***Scenes are bit-by-bit action and/or dialogue. The reader experiences what happens second by second, there is no summary in a scene***


Once she has reacted to the disaster, she must face a dilemma. In our example, her dilemma may be that she doesn’t know the attractive man’s name. She doesn’t want to ask her boss because it would seem unprofessional. She certainly doesn’t want to ask the woman he was speaking to earlier. She’s not sure how to discover his name. She has a dilemma.


As she considers the different options, she must then make a decision and go with it. Perhaps, she decides to ask the host of the party. This would then bring us back to a scene with a goal, conflict, and disaster. Then, reaction, dilemma, and decision.

As you can see, a novel is stringing together scene after scene. You may also insert a sequel between scenes where the character is having an internal monologue or you can use it to summarize events until the next scene.


  1. Goal
  2. Conflict
  3. Disaster
  4. Reaction
  5. Dilemma
  6. Decision

Learning to write effective and exciting scenes is imperative so that readers will keep turning pages. An effective scene moves the story forward and reveals something about the character and/or the situation. An exciting scene keeps a reader involved and invested in the story.

Knowing what should be included in a scene will help you write a novel that readers will love.

***Grab my FREE Character Packet to help you design compelling, realistic characters who will bring your story to life.

***Need help writing your first chapter? Check out my course: Writing a Fantastic First Chapter.

In this course, Writing a Fantastic First Chapter, you will learn what components you need to include in your first chapter to hook readers. With examples and assignments, you will put into practice what you learn and you can ask questions all along the way. A first chapter checklist, a character sheet, and a character interview are all included as downloads.

Don’t try to write a first chapter in the dark. This course will shine the light on what elements you need to help you navigate writing the all-important first chapter, so you can win over readers.

***Do you already have a manuscript? If you can’t afford an editor, you might be interested in Pro Writing Aid Writing Software. This writing software helps you improve your writing to be the best it can be. It’s like having your own private editor for a fraction of the price. You can try it for free for 2 weeks. You can click here to learn more about it.

Writing Improvement Software

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *