This is an extract of a short story I'm writing. Sometimes I get confused about when to start a new paragraph and when to start a new "scene." So I would like to know if I'm doing it properly here (and how to do it properly in the future).

It was almost midnight and Adele was lying on bed, staring at the ceiling in the darkness. She was tired, but for some reason, she couldn't sleep. After some minutes, she got out of bed, walked towards the window, and opened it. A strong breeze entered, filling the room with the smell of the sea. She stood there, still, watching the rocks being hit by the waves.

A minute or two passed when she spotted something down in the beach. At first she couldn't make out the shape, but after looking at it keenly, she realized that it was a kid. He was standing on one of the rocks, gazing at the moon.

(New scene starts)

Adele woke up at ten thirty in the morning. She brushed her teeth, took a shower, and went downstairs. There was no one in the dinning room, so she decided to make herself a sandwich and a coffee.

After finishing her breakfast, she went outside to take some fresh air. She went to the beach, which now looked as empty as a desert. She sat on the sand, and gazed at the sea. There were still enormous waves that looked like skyscrapers. How it would be to be swallowed by one them, Adele wondered.

She spent the rest of the day alone, waiting for someone to come back. But no one did.

(New scene starts)

It was 11:30 a.m. Adele was in her room, staring out the window. She was waiting for the kid to appear again. Maybe he is somehow connected with what had happened, she thought. She stayed in the same position for a while, eyes focused in the rocks. The kid appeared thirty minutes later.

She walked downstairs, passed through the dinning room, and got out of the inn.

When she reached the beach, she saw the kid standing in the same place as before. She walked towards the little boy, until she found herself standing right next to him. After examining him for a few seconds, she realized that he was wearing a mask. A Japanese mask.

4 Answers 4


The first transition is very jarring, I am expecting to see more of her reaction and also be told a reason that she ignored the kid and went to sleep. There might be a reason you don't want to share the latter, in which case I might say something like "She pondered this for a moment to herself, then shrugged and rolled over and went back to sleep", or something to that effect. The shrug here is used a gesture to show her dismissing whatever reason she may have had for investigating. If you don't have a distinct reason to say why it is that she didnt go and try to help a child in the middle of the night on the beach, which most women would do as they tend towards the maternal, I might try "She looked at the kid and wondered what he might be doing there at this time. She wanted to go and make sure he was alright and wasn't lost, but (Insert reason here) instead and went to sleep." Reasons might be fear of going on the beach alone, fear that she was still dreaming, I have no idea really why but I hope you do. There definately needs to be an indication that she ignored the kid and went back to sleep before the transition because it's so unexpected to me that she'd do so.

The second transition is perfect: You explain what she did with her day and it's a normal assumption that a person would go to sleep after their day was over, so there's no disconnect or jarring of the frame of reference.

Hope this helps!


I find they both jar a little. You would do better, IMO, to introduce each with "On Wednesday, Adele woke at ...." "On Thursday morning, Adele was awake at ..." The day setting makes for a cleaner scene change, because Adele may otherwise be sleeping at anytime. In particular, the first shift appears more like a dream being awoken from.

I am always reminded of Iain M Banks, who sometimes does some unexpected scene changes, and expects the reader to catch up eventually. But then, his writing is very surreal, and might not be the style you are after.

As a rule, scene changes that you need the reader to understand should be introduced by something external to the story.


It depends on the effect you are going for. If you want to be confusing and disorienting, then it's okay. But if you don't it's easy enough to

The next day, Adele woke at 10:30 in the morning.

And later.

The day after, 11:30 am.

Just to ground the reader.

I'm not sure there is a "proper way" to do anything with words. There are ways that work for what you want to do and ways that don't. For me your whole passage comes down to this sentence:

She walked downstairs, passed through the dinning room, and got out of the inn.

Her feeling about leaving the inn is going to answer a lot of questions I have about this passage. Instead of "got out" you have choices like, "left, abandoned, escaped." watch how something slightly different happens with each of these.

She walked downstairs, passed through the dinning room, and escaped the the inn for a while.

She walked downstairs, passed through the dinning room, and abandoned the inn.

She walked downstairs, passed through the dinning room, and left the inn.

My suggestion is not to try and make the "right" choice, but to become more sensitive to the range of choices available to you. Good Luck. Keep Writing.

  • I don't mean to be rude, but you answered something that wasn't asked. :) He was asking about the scene transitions, and you've offered him unsolicited advice regarding the wording of a description. He may not mind, but in general some writers get really irritated when you offer advice that was unasked for. May 4, 2012 at 22:31

Your question is unclear, unless you are using a typographical convention in your story you aren't using in the question.

You ask when you should use a new paragraph and when you should start a new scene. A new scene always begins a new paragraph. A new scene begins either in a different place, a different time, or perhaps from a different point of view. This usually requires a new paragraph that defines the change in location, time, or viewpoint. Defining that change clearly, without excessive words, and without boring the reader is part of your writing style.

Some writers use a convention when making major shifts, such as a label with date, time, and location, perhaps also adding the narrator's name. Some use a graphic between paragraphs. Some simple flow from one paragraph to the next, shifting the scene as they go.

The key is that readers need not guess about the mechanism you use to tell the story. When the scene changes, show it. Maybe even tell it. Make the package simple, and enclose your beautiful, complex story within it.

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