I have multiple scenes in a chapter, sometimes from different POVs, or different locations/times. Now I would like to make it clear to the reader that they have left a scene and are entering a new one.

Now, Scrivener (which I just started using, so I'm not an expert), places a '#' between scenes, but I have never seen this in a real book.

I have seen things like:




to separate scenes.

I'm not so interested in what the style manuals say, I just want to make it easy for the readers to understand they are in a new scene.

What is the easiest way to accomplish this?

Edit: To clarify, I'm planning to self publish, so I will be doing the manuscript formatting myself.

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    "I'm not so interested in what the style manuals say, I just want to make it easy for the readers to understand they are in a new scene." Style manuals exist to help do this very thing: to help clarify text for readers. Jul 12, 2012 at 17:08
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    This should not be an issue. A reader having to decipher whether he/she has progressed to another scene is part of the intrigue of reading a story. Don't spoil the story by being overly explicit, trying to explain every turn of events. Reserve the right for the reader to do their own leg work. Having any form of separation that is consistent is good enough hint to the reader to check if he/she has progressed to another scene. Jul 20, 2012 at 22:57

10 Answers 10


Scrivener exists, in part, to put manuscripts into standard manuscript format. The # mark it uses as the default section break is, frankly, a little puzzling to me. (Apparently this is standard for SFWA format, see the comments.)

Manuscripts in any variant of standard manuscript format will separate sections by either an empty line or three asterisks. However, when these fall at the end or the beginning of a page, they're easy to miss, so writers will often use lines of asterisks or similar symbols. Scrivener's default pound sign is fine for this purpose.

Leave the symbols and lines to the graphic designers. You're a writer, and you should worry about the words, not the design. Using lines of dashes in the manuscript, particularly when they're of random length, comes across to me as, frankly, slightly amateurish. But whatever you use to separate sections should be consistent throughout the manuscript.


Re-reading this question, I'm guessing that, since you're concerned with readers, this may be a situation such as an e-book or web publication, where manuscript format is irrelevant. If that's the case, it doesn't matter what you use, but I do suggest picking a simple marker such as three asterisks or bullets and centering them in the space in-between sections. With web publications and ebooks, you have no way of knowing how the text will hyphenate, so simply using white space in-between sections may not be the clearest way of breaking up sections.

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    Some standard manuscript format guidelines use the hash/pound symbol. I know the SFWA ones do: sfwa.org/2005/01/manuscript-format sfwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/06/Mssprep.pdf
    – Standback
    Jul 12, 2012 at 18:29
  • Thanks Neil, you have been the 1st to mention that using just white space may not work with Ebooks, as we cannot know how the page will be layed Jul 13, 2012 at 7:35
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    I've seen some stories that used a graphic symbol - possibly spaced and repeated more than once (sort of like a dingbat) between scenes. It has a slightly different feel than the other methods described.
    – Joe
    Jul 18, 2012 at 18:55
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    In case anyone is writing their separators into their manuscript by hand, you can tell the Scrivener compiler which symbols to insert in the "Separators" part of the compilation options.
    – RJHunter
    Nov 13, 2014 at 2:53

You could take the five-star approach:

      *     *     *     *     *

Or you could just use a significant amount of whitespace.


I guess it depends how you compile your text in Scrivener if you get the '#' or not.

Scenes within a chapter are normally separated by blank lines. Like this:

This is a scene.
And here is its end.

This is a new one.
Keep writing.

If you send your manuscript to a publisher and it is edited/copyedited, transformed for printing, then these new lines can be easily missed. That means, where you put in a scene break is none in the printed book, because someone accidentally deleted the blank line.

To avoid this, the #-signs are inserted. Then it is obvious for the publisher guys where a scene ends.

If you self-publish your book, you can use whatever you want to separate lines. As long as you like it. It's your book.


I think the easiest way to signify that you've left a scene and are entering a new one is one of two things. first, you could just hit the return button a few times. most readers realize what this means because they've grown accustomed to it. another way is to insert some sort of symbol (e.g. ~ or something) a line or two under the scene you're leaving and before the scene you're entering.


I recommend you put in 3 or more asterisks on a single line, like so:

* * *

… because that appears as 3 asterisks in plain text, but appears as a semantically-correct horizontal rule when that plain text is machine-converted to HTML.

For example, notice what Stack Exchange does to the same 3 asterisks you see above if I do not put them in a code block:

… they get machine-converted to a horizontal rule for free.

If your manuscript is going to be published on the Web or as an eBook, then accurate machine-conversion to HTML saves time and money and reduces errors.

A horizontal rule can also be quickly and easily styled via CSS by the designer of your website or book to appear as a Unicode glyph or a custom illustration.

So the 3 asterisks that you originally type show as asterisks in plain text, horizontal rule in plain HTML, and any kind of custom separator in styled HTML. With no laborious, error-prone editing of the actual manuscript. Your original intent will stay true all the way to the reader.


Once your document is compiled, you can go through and change the # to three returns, which is what's usually used. (The only time I see multiple asterisks is if a scene end happens to fall at the bottom of a page, and the * is to let the reader know that the next page starts a new scene.)

I wouldn't sweat it too much; if you're fortunate enough to get a book contract, your publisher will be laying out the book according to their standards, and if you're self-publishing, you can do whatever you like (as long as it's consistent).


Well in the book IT they switch from different point of view and different time periods a lot but how Stephen King does it is he does this thing where he numbers sections in the chapter, I’m explaining it bad but it’s like this: “Beverly walked down the street and ate ice cream like a normal 11 year old would. She wanted to forget what had just happened but 2 The memories wouldnt stop rushing in her adult mind, it felt like her adult mind was a drain and her childhood was a truckload of water on top “ something like that idk I’m bad but that’s what he does you’ll probably get better examples from the actual book he switches like that the whole time


Never seen a professional book that didn't separate scenes by a triple newline.

  • This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post. Sep 14, 2012 at 12:56
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    I disagree. Seems to be the same answer everyone else gave, put more succinctly than anyone else. Sep 15, 2012 at 0:35

Whoa I do not know where you learned to write, but at our book and Ebook formatter service, we use flourishes to separate subchapters in a book. Sometimes small ones some times larger ones. This is the only proper method.

If you are using html this may be harder to do. Chances are, you will have to convert them to .jpg or .png files instead of .eps. This method takes care of paperback books and ebooks, and makes them manageable and good looking.


I was using three asterisks, centered, which worked well in self-published books. However, I recently posted a new work to Fictionpress.com in order to get some feedback on it. Fictionpress.com does not like three asterisks, centered. It does, however, accept periods, commas, and some other marks. I tried a line of periods, but the site condensed it down to an ellipsis. However, period space period ad infinitum works. So does a line of commas, but that's ugly. I would prefer to use ***, but . . . . . works just as well to let the reader know there's been a scene or time change.

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    Hi Ed, welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. This is a good answers for pointing out that there is no single solution that will work for all publishing platforms. Thanks for contributing and happy writing!
    – linksassin
    Sep 28, 2020 at 0:22

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