Readers Want One Thing From a Scene – Change
Stories are about change.
Stories are built on conflict and resolution. Without conflict there is no story. In Master Scene Sequence (Mystery Monday, Episode 8) I covered the two types of scene—proactive and reactive. The proactive scene leaves the protagonist with a setback and the reactive scene he makes a decision that leads to change.
The Four Reader Targets for Each Scene
- The Story Plot. Know the purpose of the scene within the overall story. Example: The purpose of the scene is to reveal the protagonist’s lifelong practice of martial arts to provide motivation for knowing when and how to fight.
- The Character. The feeling about the character the reader has at the end of the scene. Example: When the reader finishes the scene, they will feel sympathy for the protagonist, but be skeptical of her ability to solve the puzzle.
- The Theme. What your reader thinks at the end of the scene. Example: At the end of the scene the reader will think that the protagonist has good observational skills but is using them incorrectly.
- The Conflict Suspense. At the end of the scene the audience will wonder (what will she do next?) Example: Will the protagonist overcome the political forces against him?
When you are in the flow of writing, it’s not difficult to miss one of the reader target elements. Don’t over-think your writing. You can check each scene for the targets when you are editing. Keep the flow.
On the other hand, knowing these four reader targets will help you craft scenes that keep readers reading.
Ways to Create Change in a Scene
Pulled out of comfort zone
Complicates the situation
Make a decision
Takes action on the decision
Describes what the action or decision means
In other words, a scene represents an event in the story. For mystery writers, when a detective evaluates the knowledge he has so far from evidence and clues, he is making a change. The change is his decision to act on the knowledge so far.
Event Thinking for the Writer
Ideally, every scene is a story event. Robert McKee in Story.
Each scene is another bridge between your reader and the story. Your reader crosses the bridge to get to the next event.
You’ll move your story forward and readers will keep reading.