Consider the following text:

Tania is in her living room, in the summer. She looks to the window and the street in front of her house, then she realized how dry and parched they are, this makes her sadness even worse. After a labor day of house work, she decides to take a nap, which turned up to a long sleep. During her sleep, she dreamed about her mother, telling the origin of silver forks of the kitchen. In her dream her mother told she that the silver forks were from her grandmother and lots of other things like fact that they were originated in Italy. Waking up, Tania looks again to the street and realized how wet they are, and how the temperature are better now. After saw the streets so clean and beautifully wet, she have never been sad again.

Well, it's clear that the event here (or more precisely, the story event) is the rain. The value (sadness, happiness) changes as we expected. This is a true story event.

Now, concerning Tania's dream, this dream would be a larger event, even a sequence or an act if you wanted. But this dream didn't change anything, and if we eventually build a scene (or a large structure, as I said, a sequence or a act) this scene would not satisfy the Mckee's point of view that "every event must to change".

But, Tania's dream gives the character's story more information and also descriptions about her world. If we eventually build a scene, then this scene would work as a "descriptional or expositional" structure. Mckee suggests this on page 36 of [1].

Is it correct to treat a scene like Tania's dream this way, i.e., constructs a new kind of structure just to do description?

[1] MCKEE.R. Story. itbooks. New York, 1997.

  • Hi M.N. Raia. I'm confused by your question. Not the core of it, but various details. I tried to edit the English but didn't touch the large quote or the short McKee quotes that have some grammar errors. I also changed up your tags. This isn't a screenplay and [book] is for physical books, not novels. If you wish to change any of my edits, go ahead. But you might want to check the parts I didn't change too.
    – Cyn
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 17:25
  • Thank you for your contribution. If you read the answer of @Amadeus, you might understand better my concerns
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 10:42
  • I get your concerns but there are grammatical errors in the supposed McKee quote ("every event must to change" is not correct English) and in the large block quote at the top. I didn't fix those.
    – Cyn
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 14:01
  • Where are the grammatical errors? I'm sorry.
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Apr 10, 2019 at 15:49

1 Answer 1


But something DID change, Tania's emotional attitude is changed in the last sentence, after the rain ends.

The length isn't what makes a scene. Like the story in general, a scene has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You have those elements here. (1) You establish a setting and character problem: It's hot and dry and she's sad. (2) She cleans her house, then takes a nap. (3) She wakes up and it has rained. The outside streets are cleaned, just as her house was cleaned. The opposite conditions prevail: The outside is cooler, washed and no longer dry, and inside, she's not sad anymore.

What changes in a scene doesn't have to be a BIG change, it is usually a minor change. And some scenes are descriptions necessary to create a setting. Because the job of the writer is to assist the reader's imagination; and that includes a lot of description, of setting, actions, and feelings, and how their feelings change or new feelings arise.

There is nothing wrong with description; the only sin is boring description where nothing seems to be happening, and the reader feels like they are attending a lecture on geography or something. (also called "info dumps").

The way to avoid that sin of being boring is actually buried in what you have done: You want to filter descriptions through the eyes and emotions of your character, so the facts aren't dry but mean something to her.

For example, if my character is a lifelong soldier, she may automatically see a landscape and assess it as a battlefield, with strengths and weaknesses, defensible positions and dangerous positions. If she is a fashion designer, she can't help but notice how people dress and what that tells her about them.

What characters see is always colored by what they know of the world, their profession and other acquired knowledge, by their memories and experiences, and how they are feeling at the time and what has happened to them recently.

The advice to make something happen is good; but what happens doesn't have to be either permanent or momentous, it just needs to be a change that likely determines what happens next. In Tania's case, what she does next while happy, is likely different than what she would do next if she was still sad. So your scene creates some justification for "what happens next."

  • Just to be clear, Tania's dream isn't the whole text just about the silver forks. It's quite clear to me that the rain is an event, which isn't clear that much is if the information about the silver forks is something which induces a change. And then, knowing that this dream would be something "with more text", then if the dreams didn't change anything then isn't a scene but rather a source for giving information (and description and so on). These "structures of just information", in my opinion, could form scene-like, sequence-like and act-like structures.
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 13:46
  • And then you can merge scenes and "scenes of just description" (the scenes which doesn't turn), to formalize the concept of description (or other thing that gives information to the reader, but isn't something which turns like an event). I would call these "structures which doesn't turn" cold structures. In the case of a cold scene, you can see just information "which doesn't turn", like the information about silver forks of Tania's grandmother. Awesome answer by the way!
    – M.N.Raia
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 13:50
  • @M.N.Raia That's fine. Even though I'm a full time research scientist, I wouldn't try to hard to "engineer" the story. The information about forks doesn't have to change anything, but it CAN also indirectly change something; the dream-conversation with her mother may be part of Tania's emotional reset, remembering her roots and history, or just a comfort to remember this incident with her mother. Unlike math and physics, you don't have to be explicit about all of this in your fiction. The "meaning" of why you include it doesn't matter, what matters is connecting it to emotion.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 13:55
  • As far as trying to turn every paragraph into a part in some machine, I'd say, don't try. I personally don't like books that I detect are written too closely to some formulaic patterns. The secret to writing is to keep the reader wanting to see what happens next, that is it. In the next few pages, by the end of the scene, by the end of the chapter, then Act, then by the end of the book. You weave together these things that are happening in the short, medium and long term, introducing new ones as the old are retired. That's it! This is middle-school science; excess complexity will trap you.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:03
  • 1
    @M.N.Raia I know; I read your profile :-). I'm CS / Mathematics / Engineering, I understand the urge! I've tried it myself, and personally did not like the results. I found out I am a discovery writer; and Stephen King's book "On Writing" might be a good intro to the alternative for you, because discovery writing starts with a character and some problem for her, but you don't have to plot it all out before you start writing. See my answer writing.stackexchange.com/a/36356/26047 and this writing.stackexchange.com/a/39537/26047 which lists some resources.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Apr 9, 2019 at 14:31

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.