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I guess you can call this a writing style, but whenever I do creative writing I write very concise. Which can be good as I don’t want scenes to drag on, but most of the time I feel I wrap up my scenes way too quickly. I want the reader to be able to linger and enjoy the moment, not feel as if they are being quickly shuffled from one moment to the next.

Does anyone have any tips/tricks to keep in mind while writing to combat this a bit?

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Welcome.

It is a good problem to have, because it means you have room to breathe meaning and emotion into your writing.

My suggestion is to pick up a novel--a favorite or other--and read it side-by-side with one of your scenes. When I do this, I notice successful authors add more context and emotion than my scenes typically contain. You will be able to see what it is that your scenes lack, and it might be something else...

  1. The boy went to the store. (that is plot. Nothing else.)

  2. The boy, in his ragged shirt and mismatched shoes, made his way along the street toward the liquor store. (plot and description.)

  3. The teenaged boy, in his ragged shirt and mismatched shoes, made his way along the street. It was rutted, and an old condom lay in the gutter like a limp balloon. He hadn't been in this part of town in years, because his mother had always said that it was where the gangs hung out and he'd always thought that life with a gang would be a bad thing. Before he knew it, he was at the the liquor store. (plot, description, context...)

-- Those are the sorts of things you can flesh out a scene with. My sense is that another sentence belongs between "...bad thing" and "Before he knew it..." but I'll leave it to you do decide what that 'thing' is.

Look to successful authors and see what it is in their scenes that you have not yet included within your own.

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What do you want your scenes to accomplish?

If your scenes seem dry and short, you're probably not setting enough goals for each scene.

Things that a scene can do:

  • Add a conflict
  • Advance a conflict
  • Resolve a conflict
  • Explore a character's motivations
  • Explore a character's personality
  • Explore the interaction between characters
  • Inform about the setting
  • Explore how a character views the setting
  • Explore how a character feels about a conflict
  • Foreshadow future events/choices/conflicts/etc
  • Connect to previous events/choices/conflicts/etc
  • Explore themes of the story
  • Sets the tone of a story
  • Sets the mood of a scene
  • etc
  • etc
  • etc

Before you write a scene (or after you write it but before you edit it), make a list of the things you want it to accomplish. Having a framework should help you figure out where you need to add details to fill out your scene.

For example: This scene from Star Wars, where Luke enters the Cantina, gets accosted, and Kenobi cuts someone's arm off.

Things this scene accomplishes:

  • Explores setting: This bar is filled with criminals who will try and kill you at the drop of a hat, and for whom a disarming is not important once it stops being interesting. (Also, droids are discriminated against)
  • Explores setting: Star Wars features a wide variety of inhuman aliens, who are all considered normal people. They all speak different languages.
  • Foreshadows: Greedo is shown as one of the aliens
  • Explores character: Luke is very inexperienced in dealing with this sort of place
  • Explores character: Kenobi, on the other hand, is more than capable of handling himself here.
  • Advances plot: Kenobi has found a ship

By combining all of these goals into a single scene, it creates a scene that is rich and memorable. And it's a very useful scene, despite very little happening that actually moves the story forward, because it informs the reader of what sort of universe Star Wars is, and how Luke and Kenobi fit into that world.


Not every scene should try to do everything - if your list of goals for a particular scene is too long then it will become long and unwieldy. And it's good for different scenes to do different things - it helps different scenes stand apart from each other, and helps you cover all the parts of your story. One scene might advance character motivation, setting, and plot, and then the next explores a different character's personality, story themes, and plot, and then the next goes back to the first character's personality, story themes, and the interaction between the two characters.

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I have the same problem. It comes from being too goal oriented. Right now, you're trying too hard to get through to the end of your story, instead of creating a journey that is enjoyable along the way.

Spend some intensive time visualizing the scene. Make sure you can clearly see every detail of the setting. Ask yourself what emotional state the characters are in, what aspects of their past come to bear on it.

Rewrite the scene as if it was the only scene in the book. Write it as though it were poetry. Make sure you touch on all five senses to make the reader feel truly immersed. Don't just pile on details to fill up space, however. Make sure every detail you include tells its own compelling story. You're not jumping through hoops or checking off a checklist in order to get done. You're doing the actual work of creating writing that people will enjoy reading.

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What you might wish to consider is try being in the moment with your character. What does this character hear, see and feel? Et more senses involved and describe what is happening.

If nothing is happening, what is the character saying or thinking. Where is this happening?

I used to be a literacy tutor and my student would write to a friend. I would ask him if he had anything else he wanted to say - he had written three lines. After a while, he wrote two pages and the letter no longer resembled a note.

Add details until you are there. It amounts to show more - you might be telling the reader more than you intend.

Are there more characters in your scene than just the one? Do they interact? How?

He walked down the path from his apartment building to get the mail. He stopped at the mailbox and got his mail.

Or

The glittering snow announced each step with a crisp crunch as he ventured out of the apartment building. Another frosty morning of only -25 but this was winter and it would stay until it left. At least there was no black ice. He saw the mail van leaving - poor guy looked cold, but it was a cold job and at least he didn’t have to walk a route.

Huddling into his jacket as he reached the mailbox, he fumbled for the key. Wear gloves next time. Opening the box, he removed the mail - almost wished he hadn’t. Nothing but flyers and one bill.

Turning back to the apartment with its promise of warmth, he hastened back up the path. Must thank the super for shovelling it so early - but while it was still snowing?

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