Self-Evaluating Scene Endings and Novel Structure

Imagine a man reading your novel. You watch him read.

He gets to the end of a scene and quickly turns the page to the next scene. He does this for hours. You watch the entire time, thrilled that he just keeps reading. He doesn’t take a moment to talk to you, to eat, or to drink. The TV shows and movies aren’t enough to draw him away from your book.

Isn’t this what we all want?

Ending a scene well is one element of fiction that will keep your readers turning the pages. You can have many great scenes, but if you don’t link them together smoothly, you might not have a great novel. Once you have your great scenes written, reviewing them in context of the structure of your novel will help you create a novel readers will love.

During your comprehensive rewrite, it’s important to consider the exit hooks, scene climax, and how the scene leads to the following scene and ensure you include variety throughout.

The Exit Hook:

The exit hook is the thing that will keep your reader wanting to start the next scene.
You can ask yourself: Why would the reader keep reading once they reach the end of a scene?

Types of Exit Hooks:

  • Cliff Hanger – perhaps your protagonist’s life is at risk.
  • Revelation – show the reader something that will change the course of the story.
  • Set back for protagonist or antagonist – one of these characters should be very unhappy about the latest event.
  • A secret revealed – you can either reveal a full secret or only part of a secret.
  • A question left hanging – this will tease the reader, making them want the answer.
  • An unexpected plot twist – this will keep the reader guessing.

Like scene entry hooks, varying the types listed above will make the novel more interesting for your reader.

You don’t want the reader to get to the end of a scene and be bored. You want them to resist going to bed, or making dinner, or going for a walk, and instead, keep reading.

The Scene Climax

If you think of the classical three-act story, your scene can be modeled in the same way. The climax must happen in act III of your scene. It needs to be near the end. You can have a sentence or two after the climax, but keep it short.

When the reader finishes the climax, they should want to read more. Don’t end too many scenes in a happy place.

If you end on a happy note, try to put in some underlying tension giving the reader the tension won’t last. Don’t be too obvious. Readers are smart, and you must always respect the reader.

How Does Each Scene Lead To The Next Scene?

To make your scene lead to the following scene, you have to read both scenes. Then think about what they have in common.

The lead could be something big. Say you end one scene with a big question. The next scene could answer that question, or better yet try to answer that question and fail.

The lead can also be something small. One character could be mentioned at the end of a scene, and then they are the point of view character for the next scene. This will help you jump smoothly from one point of view to another.

The lead could even smaller. You could mention a color in one context, and start the next scene by referring to the same color in the next scene. The reader will get the connection.

Thinking about how a scene leads to the next scene should prevent you from writing an episodic story and enable you to write a story that flows naturally.

This information can also help you decide how to group the scenes into chapters. If a scene has a strong connection to the next scene, consider putting them in the same chapter. If the scene has a weak connection to the next scene, consider starting the next chapter with the next scene.

How Will Fictionary Help With Scene Endings?

Fictionary will give you a quick method for evaluating each scene ending.

The creativity is yours. Fictionary will guide you through your manuscript, illustrating weak scene endings. With a guided approach, you’ll know which scenes you’ve addressed and which you haven’t. This will speed up your rewriting process by enabling you to focus only on areas that need revision.

Fictionary will save you money on future editing. If an editor works on your novel before you’ve finished addressing structural issues, the editor will spend time on changes you could have already made. By doing this work yourself, you’ll learn how to write better fiction and you’ll receive higher quality comments from an editor.

The History of Fictionary

Fictionary is a new interactive web app for self-editing fiction that helps writers turn a first draft into a story readers love.

Creating Fictionary began when I (Kristina) finished the first draft of my first novel. By then I’d read over 50 how-to-write and how-to-self-edit books. I’d taken writing courses and workshops, and had 100s of writing and rewriting tips swirling about in my head.

I knew I had to begin the rewriting process and improve the quality of my draft before sharing my work but I didn’t know how to go about it. How was I supposed to remember the torrent of advice and apply it to each scene? To address this problem, we built Fictionary.

Why not check out Fictionary’s free 14-day trial and turn your draft into a story readers love?

©2019 Innovations Inc.

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