During the editing of my current WIP, I noticed that when I cut to a new scene, I always used the same method: a direct cut to a line of dialogue. While it’s an efficient way to break to a new scene, using it all the time messes up the flow and makes the cuts feel jarring. To fix this issue, I decided to research good scene breaks. Rather than turn to Google and search through endless articles, I opened up a few of my favorite books and skimmed through the pages, reading every single scene break and taking notes. What I found was that most effective scene breaks had a lot in common! Here is the break down of my research. I hope that it can help you in your writing.
- The most important things in a scene break are location, time, movement, and reaction.
- Establish who is in the scene as soon as possible
- Your cut will always be stronger if you use specific details (ex. “As the first rays of sunlight touched the earth,” “In the middle of Verona Tower’s common room,” “Larry and Kate sat on the plush velvety couches of the Dora Lounge”)
- Your scene breaks should orient the reader to the scene within the first few sentences. Ideally, in the first sentence. However, if you’re using a dialogue opener, your second sentence can orient the reader to location and time.
- These tips can also apply to the beginning of a chapter.
Scene Breaks Can Start with…
- Atmospheric description setting the new scene
- How much time has passed or a mention of specific time (five hours later, as night fell, etc.)
- Movement to the next scene, establishing the change of location
- A sensation and movement (such as cold, warm, tingling, pain, etc.)
- Shocking dialogue or immediate verbal reaction to previous scene
- A character reacting to another character (glaring, smiling, oggling, etc.)
- A character in a specific location thinking
- Someone else watching the scene and reacting
- Description of a place that’s changed since the last time the characters saw it
- A reason or explanation
- Comedic revelation
- A hard truth
What do you think of these tips? Anything to add? Please share in the comments below!