Scenes are the building blocks of stories. They have structure of their own. They have beginnings, middles, and ends. Except for the first scene in a story, the beginning of a scene should hook the reader, just like the beginning of a story. Story questions are answered and new ones posed in the middle. The ends are usually cliff hangers, to motivate the reader to continue reading, at least until the last scene. That is the first element of a scene, the beginning, the middle and the end. Sometimes a scene is a story in itself. You can have a story with one scene, but you can’t have a story without a scene.
There are other elements to a scene. Each scene must have a goal. That goal is to either answer a story question or pose a story question. Whatever the goal is, the scene should either accomplish it or miss the goal. The goal could be something as mundane as getting to work in the morning to something more exotic, like staying alive in a desperate situation. The goal is stated through action, dialog, thoughts, and so forth. Those things also show whether the goal is won or lost. The character could have car trouble or miss the bus, thus not making it to work. The character could also survive the desperate situation or maybe it doesn’t. The point is that the goal doesn’t have to be achieved. It could be missed as easily as it can be achieved.
Scenes begin with action, usually. Someone gets up when the alarm rings, or they open a door. Things build on that beginning action. Then things build on things and the action speeds up. There could be a twist in the plot. For example, perhaps the character misses the bus to work and thus missing the terrorist attack on the bus. Or maybe the character could miss the bus and lose its job, leading it to plan to rob a bank. That could lead to further complications. Scenes should end with the reader wanting more, unless it is the final scene when everything should be brought to a close, whether good or bad.
We use scenes to move our stories along, develop characters, increase tension and display conflict. Scenes are important to the story and need to be crafted carefully. They should involve a goal, whether it is reached or not, and action that builds up to the end. They should leave the reader wanting more or tie everything up at the story’s conclusion. So write your scenes with care and you will have a stronger story.