Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Do I Write Meaty Scenes? Part One

Happy Wednesday, my writing friends!

When I first started writing, I added scenes just to enhance my story’s aura. If a character went to a party, for example, I’d describe the food and the people, show the character’s reactions. Then she’d leave the party.

But nothing really happened!

Having written and edited for a while now, I’ve learned how deadly this is. Each scene must brim with juicy meat or hungry readers will hunt elsewhere for something to gnaw on.

How do we beef up our scenes? Here are two do's that work for me. (Next week: one more do and a don't.)

Do Be Relevant
First and foremost, every single scene must exist for a reason. In a book I'm reading, the main character decides to take a stroll on the beach. Uh oh, I think. Here comes a long, irrelevant string of introspection. My thumb perches on my Kindle to skim past the boring part, but, to my delight, a weird dude accosts the character, and then, even better, the hero shows up. My thumb relaxes, and I stay focused on the story. Stuff's happening, and I want to go along for the ride. 

I always ask myself, “What is this scene’s job?” If it doesn’t accomplish anything—bye bye!

Do Create Conflict (Internal and External)
If it were up to me, both internal and external would pulse through every scene. Why? Let’s say we have a ton of external conflict—a bus roars at our hero. That’s good conflict, right? How much better if the driver of the bus is our hero’s wife? Now, not only does he have a bus to contend with, but emotions associated with betrayal, loss, and love. 

Also, if a scene consists of internal conflict only, we risk boring our audience. That’s a pretty big risk. If a story requires a scene with only internal angst (and sometimes it does), follow these rules of thumb: 1. Make sure the angst deeply affects the plot, 2. Keep it short—not many folks can handle long, drawn-out soul searching, 3. Use deep POV so readers can feel what the character’s feeling.

So this week as you're beefing up your manuscripts, keep these tips in mind. And tune in next week for more. 

What do you do to add meat to your scenes? I'd love to hear! 

And don't forget to leave your questions for Ask O Wednesdays here in the comments. 

God bless and happy writing, 


  1. Ocieanna, For me, the key is that question you asked: "what is this scene's job." One simple question helps me delete (or better yet, not waste time writing) any superfluous scenes.


  2. Ocieanna, I clicked on the post, captured by the picture of a hamburger (it's lunch time), but finished it because of the excellent advice. As always, thanks for sharing.
    PS--This came at a particularly good (or bad) time, as I'm about to scrap several thousand words of my WIP and rewrite them to add more conflict and give a better flow to the narrative. And all because the writing wasn't "meaty" enough.

    1. Ha ha. I hope the picture of the burger didn't cause your stomach too much rumbling. :) Thank you for your kind words, and I've definitely had to scrap words many times!

  3. Hi Ocieanna. I've had to learn this lesson the hard way. I think my entire first draft of my first book was an exercise in "don't"s.

    Now that I have a better grasp on what I'm doing (I hope), my favorite way to add meat to a scene is to make sure that most scenes have more than one thing going on in them. I feel like that makes them more like real life. Not to make scenes cluttered, but to keep things interesting. For example, the main character might be handling an issue with her job while she's noticing another woman flirting with the guy she's not admitting to liking.

    Of course, we could just start writing strictly for vegetarians.


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