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Author Topic: Words per scene?
Member # 9133

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Up to this point the only speculative projects I've finished are single-scene flash pieces. I've written an intro and a rough outline for something that will be a bit longer and definitely have multiple scenes.

I was wondering how short is too short for a scene and how long is too long (within a short story). I suspect it depends on the scene, but I was just hoping for an impression of what is generally effective.

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Member # 2651

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I'm sorry, but the answer is indeed that it will depend entirely on what you want to do with the scene. Some scenes may be no more than a sentence, others may be an entire book (almost literally - though the actual scene breakdown is a touch mroe detailed, most of the final printed book of Tad Williams' "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" series is a single climactic "scene". The spread really is that large.

I don't think concentrating on a targeted word count per scene is likely to be helpful. Write what's needed.

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Member # 6757

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Exactly 213 words per scene is THE RULE.

No, really...

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Member # 8714

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I agree completely. While I've never had a scene as short as a sentence, I have used one that is a single paragraph. Just write it as long as it needs to be to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.
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Member # 8405

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What tchernabyelo said.

And to add on this a bit.

In Techniques of the Selling Writer, Dwight V Swain warns that shorter scenes have risk, as they have less time to get us into the viewpoint character, the setting, the mood, and all of those fun things.

When I first started writing one of my mistakes was having every scene take up 200-600 words. Instead of feeling like scenes, they felt like vignettes. It was very confusing to read because of this. The reader had absolutely no sense of direction, and was not 'grounded' into the world nearly well enough.

Dwight V Swayne's point was not that shorter scenes cannot work, but rather that such scenes are more difficult to work with. Scenes require grounding. The less grounding you have the higher the risk of reader confusion.

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Member # 9148

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Hmm, I thought I might have something new to add but I don't. The scenes are as long as they need to be. Of course sometimes we can get carried away and make one too long but overall it just depends on what is happening.

I would say that probably opening scenes in a novel should be shorter...don't want to bore the reader you're trying to grab. I just started reading a novel that does have a rather long opening scene. It's filled with data dumps and such. I think almost too much for an opening.

Of course my lack of sells shows that I'm not an expert on any part of writing but that is the way it seems to me.

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Member # 2197

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Don't let Skadder fool you. It's 214 words, not 213.
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