A scene in your family history story is an incident, an experience, an event that happened to your ancestor. You the family history writer are recreating and reconstructing that event, bringing the experience to life on the page for your reader. Not only must they be factual and true, they also must make a point, communicate information and hopefully provide a deeper meaning. They must also fit with your plot line and structure of your book.
In our desire to learn about how to write a better scene, let’s take a look at what comprises a scene and then the purpose it serves in our story.
What’s in a scene?
Scenes comprise of dialogue, character and action. It should provide specific details through description without showing everything. Scenes can be a single chapter, or your chapter can contain several scenes. Scenes have a beginning, middle and end just like your story and each scene must unfold in a place, a setting. Each scene should be a major or significant event in your ancestor’s life. Your scene should not include information that only you the author would know.
10 Ways a Scene Serves a Story
Scenes have a mission, a purpose and serve your story in a number of ways.
- They must deliver a primary piece of information about your story.
- That information must move the story forward.
- The information is revealed through action, or dialogue or narrative.
- The beginning of your scene should be interesting and compelling.
- Your scene must bring tension and stakes to the story.
- It should deliver an experience and an emotion to the reader.
- It should demonstrate something about the character either through the scene itself or how the character reacts to the information revealed in the scene.
- A scene should get us inside your ancestor’s head.
- Avoid writing one scene without knowing the next scene; as each scene should set up the next.
- Each scene should end with suspense that compels the reader to turn the page and read the next scene.
Are your scenes serving your family history story?