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How Much Should One Invest on a Scene


Name's Adam.
I've always wondered, how much time should one really invest in a single scene when they're writing a chapter, a one shot or anything? In some places, I see people claiming to have been stuck on a scene for weeks, others will choose to make most of their scenes broad and lengthy, while some make their scenes brie and short.

How does one decide if a scene is important enough to be lengthened and given more priority over other scenes, or should the same level of priority be applied to the entirety of the work?


Call me Del
It depends on how I feel about a scene when I've written it, or if it's one I've been looking forward to and want to get right. I can't say I spend weeks on a scene, but I might spend a day or two working on it. Then I might tweak it a bit when editing, to try and make it 'just right'.

I wrote a large scene yesterday, and then went over it again straight away and added bits to it. Given it was not dialogue heavy at all, relying mainly on narration and description, I feel the second working made it better, while also pushing the chapter past 3,100 words. I can say I don't do that very often in a writing session.


extra toasty
A scene should be lengthened and give more attention if it is one that develops the plot and/or characters. You could probably argue the same for scenes that describe the setting of where your characters are. I think that for all three scenarios, if you skip out on details or rush through the events that take place, readers will feel left out and disappointed. I was told for an old fic of mine that I took too long getting the story moving, and I think that's because I would give attention to too many scenes that weren't important. In that particular example, I remember that it caused me to get a little burnt out with writing because it felt like, "Jeez, are they ever going to get out of Petalburg Woods???" - and it wasn't even an arc that progressed that overall plot of the story very much! lol

I think it comes down to knowing what parts should be emphasized to give the desired outcome to your readers.

Chibi Pika

Stay positive
Ooh, this is a really good question. I think the question of how much to invest really depends on how important the scene's "purpose" is. Every scene in your story should have a defined purpose and a reason to be there (advancing the plot, developing a character, establishing setting, setting the mood, explaining some info, the list goes on) but not all scenes are equally important. How much you invest in a scene depends on on how effectively you feel the scene has satisfied that purpose, and whether it needs more words to properly do what it's meant to do. But that's not to say that very important scenes are always long, and less important scenes are always short.

I suppose that's a bit of a cop-out, saying, "as long as it needs to be." :p Sometimes you might find that a scene that is less important (like moving the characters from point A to B) can be easily cut out and summarized in a paragraph or two, whereas other times you might think of a really fun thing that could happen during that A to B and suddenly the scene needs to be longer. Both these things happen to me a lot while writing.


Rabid Dusclops Fan
Depends on the story for me, really. Like, there are some stories where I feel that certain scenes need to be expanded upon and then there are others where I feel I should try to convey a lot using very little (which can be very effective when done right). It's why I storyboard chapters now so I have a good idea of what each chapter needs before I even start the first draft.


How long is a piece of string?
Its basically like that. The length of time you spend on a chapter depends on how long it takes to make the scene feel right. Sometimes its even better to leave a scene alone for a while, work on writing a scene, planning out the wider story or consider developing different characters. Then come back to it if inspiration hits you or you get a better idea of what you want to accomplish with that scene.

Sometimes you can get a burst of inspiration and come up with a full draft of your best quality work for a scene in an hour, sometimes it can take days to figure out how to make one page work decently.


I'm gonna go ahead and say that it depends like everyone else is saying. Some scenes need to be written about in depth if they are important to the plot, and others can just be written about in brief as not to take too much focus off of the important parts of the story. So yeah, there are definitely some scenes that take me longer to write and other that I just breeze through. It's all a matter how it fits into the plot


Gone. Not coming back.
I think the scene is the basic unit of the plot, more or less. Which is to say that the plot is moved along with each scene that passes, and depending on how it moves the plot, and how much, that scene may need to be longer or shorter or whatever. Two characters are having a conversation that will lead into an important decision? That's moving the plot along quite far, and I'd argue that, if the decision is that important, you're probably going to want to make the scene longer, to give yourself a chance to explore the characters' route towards that decision. Someone travelling from a place where the last important thing happened to the place where the next important thing happens? If you need to show that journey for whatever reason, it will more often than not be better to keep it brief; there's much less that needs to be said.

That said, sometimes less is more. Strong emotion often tends to be unconvincing if you spend ages trying to describe it minutely; leaving things unsaid, in very short scenes that hint at the depth of emotion rather than trying to master it, sometimes works better. I'm basically restating what everyone else has said, but the thing is, scenes are as important as they need to be. Some will probably end up feeling more important than others, but figuring out which are important and which aren't is something that you do retrospectively, after you've finished writing and can look back on the story with some distance. I wouldn't worry about not knowing what's important or not as you write; go with your gut, ask yourself what matters, and that will usually do for the first draft, at least -- after which point you can, as I say, look back on it a bit more clearly.