By All Means, Create a Scene

We're taught that plays and novels are composed of a series of connected scenes, but what exactly is a scene, and how do we create one in a #memoir?

If I were to ask you to describe the photo above, you might say something along the lines of, "Well, there's a room, maybe in a house or a restaurant, and there are people sitting around a table. They're clinking beer bottles in a toast, and they look happy, like they're celebrating something."

If you decide to go a bit further, you might estimate the people's ages, and perhaps speculate about what they're celebrating (Did they just graduate from college? Did their favorite team just win the Super Bowl?). You might even wonder aloud as to each person's relationship to the others, what they might be saying, or what will happen when this moment is over.

The point is, you would attempt to fill in the answers to the natural questions: who, what, where, when, and why.

To break it down further, a #scene:

  • contains action (who, what)

  • provides context for that action (where, when)

  • serve a purpose in the larger scheme of the story (why).

Most scenes contain dialogue, but it's not necessary in every case. The effectiveness of a scene in which someone sneaks into a house in the middle of the night to steal–or plant–something, for instance, might hinge on that character not encountering anyone or speaking at all.

Each scene consists of a:

  • setting

  • beginning

  • middle

  • end

and a consequence that will move the #story forward.

It will explain something, reveal something, ramp up suspense, set up a conflict, or resolve one. It should always have a clear purpose.

In a memoir, as in a play or novel, you're taking your readers on a journey through a series of events that resulted in a change in your life. Each event will likely be conveyed through at least one scene.

Start by simply listing the major events that are relevant to your #journey and #transformation, using just a few words to jog your #memory. They may look like snapshots in your mind at first. Once you have what you think is a fairly complete list, start fleshing out the events by answering the questions we asked above:

  • What happened?

  • Where and when did it happen?

  • Who did what?

  • Who said what?