Here’s my writing advice for the day: make each scene a little story. What we want is a series of pearls that create a lovely necklace.
A story, and therefore your scene, has a motivated protagonist (the point-of-view character), conflict, and some kind of resolution. Of course, it needs to have a hook at the end leading it to the next scene, but you can worry about that part later as you are polishing. Don’t stop your scene in the middle and start the next chapter!
One useful way to think about this involves Dwight Swain’s idea of motivation reaction units, or MRUs. I first heard about these by reading Randy Ingermanson’s e-zine. But plenty of others are advancing the ideas now. I find them quite useful. But, like any of the fiction-writing rules, feel free to ignore them. If your book is working without them, don’t mess with them.
The basic idea is that there are two types of scenes: action and reaction. These each have different structure. And you can combine a scene so that it starts with some action and moves to reaction, or vice versa. Or you can use separate scenes.
An action scene involves:
- The protagonist’s goal.
The reaction scene involves:
- Reaction (to the previous disaster).
Note that these are all on a micro level, the level of the point-of-view character in the scene. His or her goal for the scene may be very different from the protagonist’s overarching goal that drives the plot of the book as a whole.
This idea really helped me come to a whole new understanding of how to write a novel. I hope it helps you, too. For more information, check out what Randy Ingermanson says about it: http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/