The great thing about scenes is they can be pretty much any size, and run anywhere from intense to positively bland. Some are full of dialogue, others have no words spoken at all.
When I work on a scene, I’m selective in the words I choose to write it, and very specific in how a character moves, talks, and feels. I try to look at it, as I said in my last post on dreams, like I’m seeing it as it would be in a movie. The more detailed and observant I am, the richer and easier-to-see-in-the-mind it is to the people reading. I guess the technique works; one thing my readers keep telling me is they can really see what I’m describing like it’s real.
I try to treat scenes as if they’re happening right as I write them. It keeps images fresh and sharp, and allows me to pick up the extra little intricate details I might miss if I were looking at them like you would a distant memory. If a character’s telling me something from his or her past, I do this especially, because there’s specific reason they react the way they do to current events and I want to be sure I see why.
Take Andur, for example (for origin info, see his Character Origin). His story takes place well before the current one he’s in (Dragonsword Saga: Jemspur: Firstborn), but to understand his and the Dragon-Child’s relationship, you have to know the details of his past. Granted, I haven’t been told all of his story yet, but enough to get where he’s coming from.One such scene opened after his first confrontation with the Dragon-Child and a brief flash of memory of it—he recalled fighting an emerald green dragon and losing, which was strange to him since he was demon-possessed and dragons usually present no real challenge. The scene finds him shackled to a stone wall, surrounded by enemy forces. The chains are platinum, which is a health hazard to demons in his world, but they’re wrapped so the metal isn’t actually touching him; the chains keep the demon in him in check, but aren’t to hurt him. It’s cold. He’s pretty battered. When Mirinia comes to see him, in her human form, he recognizes her immediately as the dragon he fought. She offers him a deal: she can heal him and give him his freedom as one of her men, but it must be his choice and he must make the demon leave without her help. His struggle to do so against a being he’s had living in him for so long, and the fact that the demon is screaming for her blood, yet Mirinia unchains him and stays within striking distance the whole while made it a very intense scene. It has a lot packed into it for only being about five pages. There is very little dialogue; I’m not big on a lot of talking, anyway, as words aren’t as effective as actions (a lesson from real life I apply to most of my writing), and it definitely wasn’t needed.
Another scene I felt effectively portrayed the emotions and mental and physical states of the characters is from my story about Kairis (for origin info, see his Character Origin) and Ryah. I wrote the piece while struggling with my own tiredness during a move at a retail store where I used to work. We were forced to work seven days a week, about twelve to fifteen hours a day just so the district manager could beat his store opening record. It was exhausting and demoralizing. The piece, which I submitted for my 100words entry “Exhaustion,” portrayed the long escape journey Kairis has to force Ryah into for them to avoid recapture. The full scene is about fourteen pages long, packed with the language and imagery that makes it feel like I’m on the journey with them, sharing the misery and ever-present fear of being found.
Then there’s the scene from my Kavalren series (my science-fiction series) where Immortal Aral Kett repays an informant for his betrayal. The scene is barely a page long, but that’s exactly long enough for Kett’s stripped-down, sharp-edged style.
When doing scenes, I often use things I’ve experienced (or know people who have), as well as use stuff from dreams, along with what the characters tell me. Using personal experience—granted, it usually needs to be modified to work, but you can use the theme of it (such as a friend’s betrayal or the exhaustion from work) or the actual event (like playing Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo GameCube with friends on a typical buddy night) in some form or other. It gives realism, authenticity, and believability to your work.