Editing Tips on How to Stage Your Scene by Beth Barany

In this post, I cover editing tips on how to stage your scene for your novel.

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Q: When introducing a scene, how do you organically place three or more people in a scene?

When you’re editing a first draft, you need to essentially re-imagine your story to give it depth, verisimilitude, and emotional power.

Your end goal: bring the reader into the story and have them feel involved and attached to your characters and their dilemmas.

How to Stage Your Scene

At the start of every scene, the reader needs to know some basic things to orient them.

They need to know:

  • Where the scene takes place
  • When the scene is happening relative to the action of the story
  • Who is in the scene
  • Goal for point of view (POV) character
  • And why we should care – the stakes. These are the stakes for the POV character, usually a main character and ties back to goal.

A student recently asked me:

Q: When introducing a scene, what if there are three or more people in a scene, there must be a clever way to organically place them in a scene. Especially if they are all there at the start of the scene, right?

A: Yes!

An Example and Walkthrough on How to Stage Your Scene

To show you how, I’ll share an example.

1. Start by getting a big picture view of the scene opening.

Here’s mine:

Sally, Martin, and Joelle are at a café together.

2. State the scene’s point of view character.

The scene is from Joelle’s point of view.

3. Be clear about where in the story your scene takes place.

Let’s say we’re somewhere in the middle of the story.

4. List the elements for your story; be specific:

  • Where the scene takes place
  • When the scene is happening relative to the action of the story
  • Who is in the scene
  • Goal for point of view (POV) character
  • And why we should care – the stakes.

Here’s mine:

    • Where: a café in Paris (why not!); near Canal St. Martin, Café Prune
    • When: 10 pm, a balmy summer night; the sun is just setting; it’s the next day after the previous scene
    • Who: Sally, Martin, and Joelle; also, a waiter, passers-by; cars, pedestrians, street musicians
    • Goal: Joelle wants to make a movie and convince sally and martin, a couple, to fund her
    • Stakes: if she doesn’t get this movie made, then she’s back to square one, an unknown filmmaker, and has to get money from someone else

Reminder
Our goal here is to introduce the scene, not write the entire scene. We just want to hook the reader and draw them in. So they’ll read on.

I like to do this in 2-4 sentences. Here’s my draft without any story built around it.

My finished example:

The next night, just as the sun set on a warm summer day, Joelle exited the metro, hoofed it the few blocks to Café Prune, and arrived just as Sally and Martin did. They greeted each other with les bises, got their drinks, and settled in at a table on the terrace facing Canal St. Martin. It was quieter there. She needed them to be able to talk about her pitch…

The next time you sit down wondering how to edit the start of your scene, use these steps to guide you.

Let me know how it goes!

ABOUT BETH BARANY

BETH BARANY, CREATIVITY COACH FOR WRITERSA Master NLP Practitioner and certified creativity coach for writers, Beth runs Barany School of Fiction, a full suite of courses designed to help genre fiction writers experience clarity and get writing, so they can revise and proudly publish their novels to the delight of their readers.

Based in Oakland, California, Beth Barany has presented at Ithra Center (King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture) in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, at the Women’s Fiction Festival in Matera, Italy, at Romance Writers of America National Conference, at Emerald City Conference in Seattle, Washington, at the San Francisco Writers Conference, and at San Francisco Bay Area chapters of SCBWI, CWC, and RWA.

Award-winning novelist, Beth Barany writes magical tales of romance, mystery, and adventure that empower women and girls to be the heroes of their own lives.

She is the award-winning author of Henrietta The Dragon Slayer, the acclaimed paranormal romance author of the Touchstone series, and is proud to release her newest novels, science fiction mysteries about Janey McCallister space station investigator.

The first book in the series, Into The Black, is a Page Turner Awards ebook Finalist. She has also written books for writers, including Plan Your Novel Like A Pro, co-written with her husband, thriller writer Ezra Barany.

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