What Do You Look For In a Scene?

Every type of scene has its own landmarks. I tend to focus on where my attention naturally goes in the course of a movie. Most my scenes play out in my imagination’s theater as I write them. Focusing on the right details is as good as a camera close up. While fast action on the screen sets the heart racing, immersive scenes with visceral details on the page achieves the same effect but blows the mind from a different angle.

With dialogue I focus on the eyes and facial expressions as emotions ripple beneath the surface. Also the tone of the words needs to be revealed. As emotions rise and fall I’ll include gestures. Tension, like the sun, is either rising or setting, never just hanging comfortably in the air with no place to go.

Fight scenes draw my attention to the weapons, foot work, and the moves that turn the tide. I favor the thinking fighter by including feints and inner monologue as my fighter begins to discern patterns or vulnerabilities. Other characters fight like wild animals, launching all out attacks with brute force or lightning speed. Finally, I include inept fighters and the kind of panic that goes on in their mind while they defend their life.

Romance in my works tend toward the old silver screen kind; you see the embrace, the kiss, and assume from the ‘fade to black’ what comes next. Heat from the body, soft or calloused features; these come in to play as the scene unfolds. Like a fight scene I include moves and countermoves as well as establishing who takes the initiative. Like dialogue scenes, eyes play a large part. My most recent challenge stems from scenes told from a woman’s perspective. For these scenes I need to know, where to their eyes go when they notice a man; are the ‘hotspots’ different? A basic knowledge of anatomy says yes but doesn’t offer alternatives.

All this being said, I’m sure tons of unexplored territory exists in the effort to sink a reader into a scene. With my stunted sense of smell I feel like I ignore odors too much. What do you enjoy in a scene that helps draw you in?


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