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The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  357 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
A treasure-trove of scene-writing wisdom from award-winning author and teacher Sandra Scofield To write a good scene, you have to know the following:
• Every scene has an EVENT
• Every scene has a FUNCTION in the narrative
• Every scene has a STRUCTURE: a beginning, middle, and end
• Every scene has a PULSE

The Scene Book is a fundamental guide to crafting more effective sc
Paperback, 247 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by Penguin Books (first published 2007)
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Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This was my craft book pick for my second term at the Seton Hill Writing Popular Fiction master's program.

One of the things I often struggle with in my fiction, especially in long fiction, is the meandering scene. Sometimes things just draaaag in my writing. I've come to realize that part of that is sometimes a lack of focus in my scenes. They're just *there*.

I'm somewhat of an organic writer. I don't tend to plot much and while I do have an idea of where things are going, and several scenes in
Chance Lee
Jan 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: college-reading
This book is okay, but I only got a few good tips out of it. As with any writing guide, YMMV depending on what you want to focus on and your level of experience. This book is about scenes, as you can tell from the title, and while the author uses a lot of examples from novels (waaay too many from her own novels, which, judging the examples, seem insufferably dull), I think this book is of the best use to a short story writer.

The back of the book is really all you need to read: Every scene has a
Mark O'Bannon
The Scene Book
by Sandra Scofield
If you want to be a writer, you need to master the art of writing the scene. Scenes form the basic building blocks of any story and this book explores them in great detail.

Writers need to think in scenes. There is a difference between narrative summary and a scene.

Narrative summary is a way to quickly cover a lot of ground in a story, without getting bogged down in the details. Narrative summary is a great technique to use between scenes, but some writers don't se
Jan 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
I've always considered good writing an art, something that can't really be taught or learned. This book showed me how wrong that idea was. Talent is important to good writing, but so is form and technique. Scofield teaches how pulse, events, beats, point of view, scenarios, and several other tools add up to create a story that really works. She also gives some really good tips for revising your own writing. I would recommend this book to anyone who is seriously considering writing a novel.
Sep 02, 2008 rated it it was ok
Although there is some very helpful information here in a structural, editorial way, the fact that she doesn't ever stop mentioning her own work, or quoting from it, or using it as a good example, made me never want to read her again.
Oct 30, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
Ever get that writing book that you wish you would've had before you started the project you're currently working on? This is that book.
Elizabeth Felicetti
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
Had feedback that my CNF needs to be more scenic. This book is enormously helpful.
Ellayne Shaw
Apr 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
Scofield's approach to fiction writing is very accessible. She includes multiple examples from various texts to illustrate the different principles she discusses in this book, which I enjoyed because there were so many different styles of writing included.

I read the book for a class I'm currently enrolled in called "Fiction Fundamentals." I think the title of my class is actually a good way to describe this book--it is full of the fundamentals of fiction. Scofield covers all the basics of ficti
Apr 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've never understood beats within a scene as well as I do after reading Scofield's chapter on this. She is clear, has interesting exercises at the end of each chapter, and uses examples from literary novels rather than commercial fiction. I love the way she talks about "Big Scenes" -- those with many characters, which I am juggling in my book right now. She recommends focusing on your POV character as your life jacket in jumping into deep water. I find her guidance clear and compelling, and she ...more
Hannah Goodman
Dec 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
I read Sandra’s book (she teaches at The Solstice Program at Pine Manor where I am currently a student) out of curiosity but found her ideas helpful. It was more of a workbook, which wasn’t what I was looking for. I think this is a nice craft book to have on hand when trying to fine tune your stories and make sure you have all the elements of scene. What I really liked was Sandra’s little bits about her own writing life and how she created her own self-study of books. The other nice part about t ...more
Kathy Karch
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was ok
To be honest about it, there are better written books about writing scenes in fiction. The author dropped sample excerpt after sample excerpt in rapid fire, and each was taken from some obscure piece of work. It felt as if the author was trying to prove that she knew what she was talking about just by loading the pages with as many different excerpts as possible. It didn't work for me. She would have done better to rely upon two or perhaps even three pieces of work and reference them only to mak ...more
Mar 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I found this book on a reading list for a college writing course, and I must say it is one of the very few craft books I've seen that I would recommend to any writer.

Though it is definitely fit for a college level writing course, it thankfully doesn't drone on about theory. Instead Scofield takes a more hands on approach with helpful exercises, questions to ask, and sample scenes. This really did manage to demystify the process and gave me a greater sense of control in my work - and thus delive
Aditi Chopra
Feb 22, 2012 rated it liked it
This book was recommended to me by a colleague. I was lost on scene writing skills and this book has given me a few important elements to consider when writing scenes. I haven't read any other book on scene writing so I can't compare. I found myself skipping over a lot of material in this book, perhaps it is the writing style that didn't work for me. None-the-less, I am more equipped with scene writing skills than I was before reading this book.
Dec 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: writing
As the title indicates, this is a primer, but I could easily see a beginning writer getting lost in the dense exposition about scenes. Still, this would be a helpful book for someone trying to move from writing exposition to writing scenes. The best part of the book was the section on independent study. That section has a nice roadmap - and templates - for how to read and evaluate scenes. It can be used to study scenes of other writers or as a way to evaluate and revise your own scenes.
Diana Burtnett
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft
This was a HUGE help to me! I was having problems with my current novel and either 1) Knew what the problem was but was unsure how to tackle the resolution or 2) Had no idea what the problem was .... clear as MUD ... but knew there was definitely issues. This book identified ways to solve problems and also helped me to identify what the problem was. Definitely will be going on my shelf of reference books where I can rely on when I need it.
Melinda Jane Harrison
Very good books on how to write scenes in a book. LOVED IT!!!!!!!!!!!!! All writers should have a copy in print on their desk to use.

Just went through it a second time to make a hit list for checking scenes. I have used other books too, but this one gave me a great way to form my thoughts on how to look at scenes from from first crappy draft to the last polished one, which might be dozens! RECOMMENDED.
Jun 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Scofield's book is a must-read for any aspiring writer. Clear, concise, and with plenty of helpful exercises, The Scene Book breaks down the necessary components of a good scene and how to write one. The only missing element is a meaty discussion of the transitions between scenes and how they can affect a book.
Jun 12, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft
this book focuses on writing effective scenes by breaking a scene down into its components (action, character response(s), ending). there are examples from other authors (both well-known and obscure) and exercises at the end of each chapter. my only complaint is that the longest examples come from her own work.
Rachel Blom
Jan 03, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-on-writing
This book came highly recommended, but somehow it wasn't what I expected. To me, there was much familiar advice and I found the references and examples 'too literary' for my tastes (I'm more commercially oriented I guess). The biggest take away for me was the concept of 'beats' within a scene, this really helped me improve my scene writing.
Rose Margaret  Deniz
Dec 06, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing-books
This book was practical and helpful, and I found myself taking notes and jumping into a working on a scene after having read a chapter or an exercise. I didn't think all of the exercises were right on, and some of the example passages got long and wieldy, but overall would say it was a good intro.
Apr 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: textbooks
Not being a seasoned writer, I found this book extremely helpful in developing a writing method. Scofield provides some excellent tips for organizing your thoughts and writing and how to develop the best possible scene.
Mar 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very helpful book. Scofield outlines a lot of really important scene writing techniques. My favorite thing about this book has to be the exercises at the end of every chapter. While I didn't do any as I was reading, I definitely plan on using them when I am struggling!
Nero Grimes
Dec 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Charming and brief. Everything a 'how to write' book should be.

The nuggets of solid advice are happy bonuses.
Jan 19, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: writing
Read for Fiction Fundamentals course. Lots of practical suggestions and good explanations.
Jun 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Many great examples and exercises for improving your writing. Tons of great ideas and gems that will not only improve my writing, but help me teach my students better.
Robin Kirk
Oct 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: craft
Very good way of looking at how to keep a story moving and create tension. Excellent examples drawn from many different eras and styles.
Meg Mims
Feb 07, 2008 rated it really liked it
A must-read for writers, but I wished she'd used more genre fiction examples than literary fiction. Still, it was worth reading and was pretty meaty. Not as "beginner" as you'd think.
Jul 04, 2007 rated it really liked it
Shelves: craft-of-writing
Mmmm, this looks good. I like the cover, just like a comp book, black and white. Good, useful information on beats, tension, pulse, focal points in a scene.
Mariah Rackliff
Mar 19, 2015 rated it liked it
Nice breakdown of the fictional elements in writing.
CX Dillhunt
Mar 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: how-to-write
great for teachers, writers & readers of all kinds...exercises, reading list
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  • Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore
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“We are not beginners forever, but we never stop learning.” 0 likes
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