Creating Scenes In A Short Story

What makes a scene in a story?

Juneta Key
The Art of Fiction
Published in
4 min readJun 28, 2019

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I have written a few short stories, and I have plans to write more. One of my focus points while learning to write short stories has been scene creation.

This was a really big thing for me to get my head around. I wanted to really understand what is a scene and specifically what it needed to be for a shorter story.

So, I have been reading a lot. Here is what I have learned so far.

What is a scene?

A scene is a small moment or incident within a larger story that contributes to the overall movement and story end goal or story ARC. (Definition of story arc via Wikipedia.)

What makes a scene?

Three things MUST be present.

  • A setting where the action takes place.
  • A character with a deep personal need, goal, desire, or a situation they must take action physically, emotionally (internally at times paired with consequence), or in dialogue with purpose.
  • Scene movement that causes a small or bigger change that affects the story — character.

The problem needs to be strongly connected to the character's deep need/desire, or goal, or in opposition to it, which will motivate him to take action. (Character motivation/drive via Reedsy blog.)

In flash fiction, you have no room for backstory or even a lot of character development, so the sooner your character takes action the better.

In fact, you should start as close to the end of the story as you can and in the middle of the action if possible with flash fiction. (For more about flash fiction see my article here.)

A short story of 3000 to 7000 word has a bit more room for character development and description, but backstory sparse, if any.

How do you know the scene has ended?

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