In my novel, I have a scene at home which changes to scene at the office which is completely different. I have written it in a way that in a line or two the reader will understand the scene is changed but I am not sure. I am asking is it advisable to mention a scene change by adding a phrase like, 'back in the office' or 'back at home'. Each time it feels lack of confidence.

Following is example of my writing.

"What's wrong now? You are looking worried something must be wrong" Aakash inquired getting out. "I am having a feeling that we are not ready for this at the present moment as our life is not what we want." "In that case, we should plan an abortion." Aakash gave a heads-up to what I was feeling.

Back in the office, Richard and Dr. Zhang had a successful undertaking to procure funds. This meant that now some of the funds were allocated to me for pure re-search. For the most effective and life-like implementation of gaming systems, I con-sulted experts in the fields of Psychology, Business Management, Sociology, Mathe-matics, and Computer Science.

  • 9
    This is not a criticism, @cool_bodhi, but I suspect that either your characters are non-native speakers of English, or perhaps you are. Is that true? Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 2:16

7 Answers 7


I wouldn't advise doing that. It breaks the immersion in my opinion. From what I have seen, writers usually do that when talking about different times. You can't easily explain twenty years ago.
You could set up the scene by doing something like this:

John responded to his boss's email and connected the laptop to the charger. It was almost lunchtime and his colleagues might knock at his office's door any moment now....

I think that's enough for setting the scene, you don't need to give a detailed explanation about the office unless it serves the story.

EDIT: Now, after getting a glimpse of the writing, I also have to wonder how the narrative works. The character is either omniscient to know what happens in places they're not in, or they are recounting events that happened simultaneously in other places. In both cases, one should inquire how these things would have been told in-person. If you were telling me this story while sitting for a coffee together, how would I react? would I be confused by the way you recount your story?

In my point of view, I would have interrupted you and asked: "Wait, how did you know that was happening?" You should consider that in your writing and come up with an answer as soon as that question pops up in my mind - because if you can't answer it, you lose credibility in the eyes of the reader.

A solution you can use is something like this:

Back in the office, as I discovered later, Richard and Dr. Zhang had a successful undertaking to procure funds. This meant that now some of the funds were allocated to me for pure re-search. For the most effective and life-like implementation of gaming systems, I con-sulted experts in the fields of Psychology, Business Management, Sociology, Mathe-matics, and Computer Science.

This simple change transforms your "change of scene" to a memory or self-reflection. Something that pops up in the character's mind during a scene. That's perfectly ok to do, because as human beings our minds can wander.

  • 1
    Thank you for your answer. I tried with the way you have mentioned, but the problem is it ends up being an abrupt change of scene. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:14
  • 1
    how do you separate your scenes? Have you considered using something like an asterisk (***)? It is subtle and yet still clearly separates the scene from the previous one. If you can put up the paragraph we can help judge / edit (if you want).
    – Oren_C
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:16
  • 1
    There...added an example. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:27
  • 1
    Even with different times, this is not essential. For example, throw in a couple of horse-drawn carriages and references to the nationalist ambitions of Austria-Hungary, and the average reader will figure it out pretty quickly.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:34
  • 1
    Thank you for the edit....it explains a lot. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 15:22

It's always a good idea to give your readers some indication that the setting (whether time or place) has changed. You could do something like

... and she flopped onto the sofa, clutching the picture to her chest. Tears rolled down Alice's cheeks as she thought of her wife.

Shanti leaned back in the plush leather chair. Alice was probably waiting for her at home, even though she'd texted her. But she had too much to do.

This works if you've already established that Shanti and Alice are in different places. A line break usually signals a change in setting and/or POV character.

You can have a sentence at the beginning indicating a different place, but it has to be done well. "Back at the offfice" sounds very colloquial, as though someone is narrating. This could work in some kind of first person narrated-after-the-fact story

... And so my sister sobbed her heart out for her wife,all the while never doubting that their love would overcome even this.

Meanwhile, at the office, Shanti was busy trying to get her secretary to go out with her for drinks. Hey, you only live once, and in this case, not even for very long. I don't know that I wouldn't do the same in her place.

In this case, the kind of abrupt scene change is a part of the narrator's voice, and has a comic effect. You can also do the thing they do in spy movies

London, 1954

A spectre is haunting London...

Here, you've gotten the setting and time right away. This format is generally common in thriller/mystery/spy novels, afaik.

Also, check this out

  • Thank you for your answer. The problem is as you mentioned, I am trying not to have an abrupt change in the scene. But my story is really the first-person narrative of general fiction. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:13
  • 2
    I see. You could try using "meanwhile" without mentioning the place? For example : "Meanwhile, Dr. Zhang and Richard had gotten my research funded. I didn't know this till I went back to the office, exhausted after the conversation with Aakash."
    – tryin
    Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 6:01

Many books do scene changes primarily at the ends of chapters, and ones that change scenes more frequently typically handle it with a section break, which alerts the reader to expect a disconnect in time or place. If you do also need some bridging words, however, I don't see anything wrong with that. You might consider, however, that maybe you're jumping from place to place too abruptly from a narrative standpoint. Transitional scenes can be important and valuable locations. A lot of things can happen between point A and point B. I remember reading that ST:TNG built a lift into their set just so the writers would have a setting for little transitional conversations, while The Big Bang Theory used a stairwell for the same purpose. Try this instead:

...On the entire drive back to the office, I couldn't stop obsessing over what Aakash had said. This was going to change our whole lives. I was so distracted I almost ran a stop sign.

I put all of that out of my mind, however, when Richard and Dr. Zhang met me with the amazing news that...

It's worth remembering that multiple quick cuts between scenes is really a cinematic technique, where all the necessary information is handled visually and instantly. In a book, where you have to manually move the reader from one setting to another, it's more intrusive and less effective.

  • Thank you very much for your answer. This was very helpful to me. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 4:19
  • 1
    @cool_bodhi - You want to remember that fiction is a journey, not a destination. People don't read you just to digest the plot as quickly as possible. They are there to experience the world you are putting them in. Your original example is very abrupt, it hits the important plot points and moves on to the next one. That's not as engaging --it doesn't immerse the reader. You also want to give your characters more of an internal life. Your main character must surely be experiencing a roller coaster of emotions, but his narration doesn't give any hint of that. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 20:15
  • Thank you so much for the reply...it helps a lot. Commented Jun 12, 2019 at 8:21

Don't be hamfisted. If you provide enough good hints of the location, that's sufficient. The location should be established, but telling it directly like that is a rather rarely used stylistic tool that makes your story resemble a report. Which is rarely advisable, unless it's your purpose, e.g. this being a crime or military novel written in the report-like style.

It's usually best to give a bit of description that sets the place better than 'the office'. Give the mood of the scene, the ambience, the environment, the dynamics.

"Hey, Mark!" Joe waved frantically, shouting through the din of the office, pushing past a group of interns busy slacking off by the water cooler, and dodging a cart ladden with xerox paper. "Mark! I've got it!"

  • Thank you for your answer. I completely agree with you. Problem is I am unable to deal with an abrupt change of scene, for e.g. something important going on at home, that scene is over, now narrating office with scene or ambiance is feeling like an abrupt change of mood or scene. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:17
  • 2
    You could put a transition in there, where "on the way to work, MC thought..." if the MC is changing locations. It sounds like you might be talking about having two storylines going at a time though. I've seen some writers use a different "section" with some visible marks on the page to denote a sharp break like that.
    – Cullub
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 21:54
  • 1
    @cool_bodhi: * * * section break!
    – SF.
    Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 22:21
  • Most writers use a blank line for such a section break. Commented Jun 11, 2019 at 2:17

Show, don't Tell

This situation might be a type of show, don't tell.

Saying "Back at the ranch…" is 1-line exposition. Readers often tune out, they drop words and phrases, even entire paragraphs as their mind wanders. If it's crucial to the story that a character has a specific realization at home and another one at work you might need more story cues and support characters to make this obvious. Show us when they are at home or at the office, don't just tell us.

Unlike a screenplay, novels and shortstories don't need to explain every action and realization happening at a specific place and time. "Scenes" in literature are much less specific. A character's turn in a novel (presumably the whole reason for the scene) may not happen all at once, or not be tied to a specific moment like in a screenplay.

If it's not important enough to show through the narrative, it may not be important enough to worry that a percentage of readers will miss it when you tell.

  • 3
    Thank you for your answer, it explains a lot. Commented Jun 10, 2019 at 14:19

It depends on your novel. The majority of published, bestselling works do not do this; but a portion of them do. The ones that do it, do it for ambiance. Spy thrillers or tech-opras where that short to the point information is a cue to readers and sets the tone.

The default should be to not use it unless you have a very good reason. If every scene is jumping and the reader can't follow without these cues it may be an indicator that you're not transitioning well, have too many scenes, or too many characters. If all of this sounds familiar, maybe you're the person who knows the rules well enough to break them; but, that's unlikely because you only get to break a few rules per book and this one isn't all that exciting.


One of the major uses of chapter-changes and section-changes is to signal a change of scene (or similar, e.g. passing of time). The show-don't-tell advice in other answers is sound--and with a section break, the reader knows a scene change may have happened, so you don't need to do much 'showing'. This is important, because too much 'showing' just to tell the reader we've moved location can be a weakness.

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.