Writing Scenes

My “Rules” For Comic Scripting - Cullen Bunn

Writing The Perfect Scene - Randy Ingermanson



So you have your outline with a bunch of basic scenes scattered all over it. Now it’s time to actually go a write those scenes!

Before you start, I recommend not applying the following rules to your first draft. I prefer to first write out my scenes in full and then evaluate them against these tips in retrospect. I found that this lets the story flow more naturally since I don’t have to keep stopping my writing to check if I’m doing everything exactly right. As always, you have to decide what method works best for you.

Anyways, let’s jump into some quick tips to make sure your scenes are looking great:

  • SHOW DON’T TELL (usually). Comics are a visual medium. Often you can express an idea or emotion through the drawings instead of using a wall of text. There are of course exceptions to this rule. Some things just come across better when told by characters. Unfortunately I don’t know any formula for spotting these situations so you’ll just have to play it by ear.

  • Details matter! By giving your characters subtle mannerisms, you can reflect their personalities or how they feel about something. Similarly, you can express how the society of your world works through the everyday actions people perform.

this should be a photo

For example, in this scene form More Than Men, a young woman is shown using her powers to help her wait tables at a restauraunt. This subtly shows the reader how mundane powers have become in the world while at the same time serving as a natural pause in the scene.

  • Determine the purpose of your scene and fulfill it. Read back into the section on the M.I.C.E. quotient about the different elements of a story. Each scene should progress at least one of these elements. Figure out which elements (the plot, the characters, the world or the idea) your scene addresses and make sure it develops them in some way.

  • Set your scene somewhere that reinforces that scene’s purpose. If your characters are discussing the future of a city, setting that scene on a balcony overlooking the city will add a satisfying visual cue to the reader. A location can also add a lot to the overall tone of a scene. If a character feels alone, setting a scene in an open field will emphasize this. Weather has similar effects. If your character is sad, having it be a dark, rainy day will add another layer of emotion to the scene.

  • Include only the characters that are essential to the scene. Who would be most affected by the result of the scene? Who has the most at stake? By narrowing the focus of a scene to just the important characters you can make key moments in a scene more impactful.

  • Make sure your scenes transition well into each other. How is the current scene related to the scene immediately before it? If there’s little or no relation, make sure you give the reader a clear enough sign that a switch in location, time or tone has taken place.


The Elements of a Scene



In general, layout of a scene can often be broken down into the following sequence of events:

  • A Goal: Something that one or more of your characters want to achieve.

  • A Conflict: Something preventing your characters from achieving their goal.

  • A Disaster: Someone fails to achieve their goal.

  • A Reaction: There is a response to that failure. It could be a physical or emotional reaction from your character or it could be an event occurring.

  • A Dilemma: A difficult choice must be made, often with no clear right answer.

  • A Decision: A choice has been made by one or more characters.

  • A Consequence: An (often bad) event occurs as the result of that choice.

By including these elements in your scene, you can ensure that each moment naturally follows from the previous one and that the scene ends in a satisfying way.

It also ensures that things are constantly changing and your characters are making active decisions that progress your plot.

Now, you don’t have to go through all those steps in that order for every scene in your book. In fact, I encourage you NOT to do so for the sake of keeping your story unpredictable. These are simply the elements that I think are common to most scenes. It’s up to you to decide when and where they should be applied in your story.