On Writing Scenes & Chapters


Anonymous asked: “What counts as a scene for a chapter? I know there’s no set length but could a day out together count as one scene?”

Sure a day could be a scene, but it might be long. I just finished reading Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger. It’s fantastic for anyone who hasn’t read it – and basically, it has very few scenes, no chapters, just 2 parts. 

In this book, Franny eats at a restaurant with her boyfriend, and Zooey takes a bath, gets dressed and talks to his sister. That’s it. One very long scene is Zooey talking to his mother while he’s taking a bath. There are only a few scenes. The scenes in this case start and end whenever there’s some kind of breaking point – like when Zooey ends the conversation with his mother so he can get out of the bath and get dressed. It doesn’t matter that she comes right back a few seconds later, it’s kind of a new conversation, it’s a new scene. 

Scenes are natural breaking points. Any time that there might be a way to skip a few minutes or a few hours or just add a chapter break. Breaks in scenes are spots where a reader can rest. They can flow from one to the next, but generally there will be some kind of break.  

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