how to write a scene

A scene has two levels of structure, and only two. They are:

  • The large-scale structure of the scene
  • The small-scale structure of the scene

Your reader is reading your fiction because you provide him or her with a powerful emotional experience.

If you fail to create these emotions in your reader, then you have failed. If you create these emotions in your reader, then you have succeeded. The better you create the desired emotional experience in your reader, the better your fiction. Perfection in writing comes when you have created the fullest possible emotional experience for your reader.

Large-Scale Structure of a Scene

Scene has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Goal: A Goal is what your POV character wants at the beginning of the Scene.
  2. Conflict: Conflict is the series of obstacles your POV character faces on the way to reaching his Goal.
  3. Disaster: A Disaster is a failure to let your POV character reach his Goal.

Sequel has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Reaction: A Reaction is the emotional follow-through to a Disaster.
  2. Dilemma: A Dilemma is a situation with no good options
  3. Decision: A Decision is the act of making a choice among several options.

The purpose of a Sequel is to follow after a Scene. A Scene ends on a Disaster, and you can’t immediately follow that up with a new Scene, which begins with a Goal. Why? Because when you’ve just been slugged with a serious setback, you can’t just rush out and try something new. You’ve got to recover. That’s basic psychology.

And now you’ve come full circle. You’ve gone from Scene to Sequel and back to the Goal for a new Scene. This is why the Scene-Sequel pattern is so powerful. A Scene leads naturally to a Sequel, which leads naturally to a new Scene. And so on forever. At some point, you’ll end the cycle. You’ll give your POV character either Ultimate Victory or Ultimate Defeat and that will be the end of the book. But until you get there, the alternating pattern of Scene and Sequel will carry you through. And your reader will curse you when he discovers that he’s spent the whole doggone night reading your book because he could not put the thing down.

That’s perfection.

However, it’s only half the battle. I’ve told you how to design the Scenes and Sequels in the large scale. But you still need to write them. You need to write paragraph after compelling paragraph, with each one leading your POV character smoothly through from initial Goal to knuckle-whitening Conflict to bone-jarring Disaster, and then through a visceral Reaction to a horrible Dilemma and finally on to a clever Decision.

Small-Scale Structure of a Scene

Writing MRUs correctly is the magic key to compelling fiction. I don’t care if you believe me or not. Try it and see.

You will write your MRUs by alternating between what your POV character sees (the Motivation) and what he does (the Reaction). This is supremely important. Remember that Swain calls these things “Motivation-Reaction Units”. The Motivation is objective but it is something that your character can see (or hear or smell or taste or feel). You will write this in such a way that your reader also sees it (or hears it or smells it or tastes it or feels it). You will then start a new paragraph in which your POV character does one or more things in Reaction to the Motivation. There is an exact sequence you must follow in writing your Reaction. The sequence is based on what is physiologically possible. Note that the Motivation is external and objective. The Reaction is internal and subjective. If you do this, you create in your reader the powerful illusion that he is experiencing something real.

The Motivation is external and objective, and you present it that way, in objective, external terms. You do this in a single paragraph. It does not need to be complicated.

Here is a simple example:

The tiger dropped out of the tree and sprang toward Jack.

The Reaction is internal and subjective, and you present it that way, exactly as your POV character would experience it — from the inside. This is your chance to make your reader be your POV character. To repeat myself, this must happen in its own paragraph (or sequence of paragraphs).

The Reaction is more complex than the Motivation. The reason is that it is internal, and internal processes happen on different time-scales. When you see a tiger, in the first milliseconds, you only have time for one thing — fear. Within a few tenths of a second, you have time to react on instinct, but that is all it will be — instinct, reflex. But shortly after that first reflexive reaction, you will also have time to react rationally, to act, to think, to speak. You must present the full complex of your character’s reactions in this order, from fastest time-scale to slowest. If you put them out of order, then things just don’t feel right. You destroy the illusion of reality. And your reader won’t keep reading because your writing is “not realistic.” Even if you got all your facts right.

Here is a simple example:

A bolt of raw adrenaline shot through Jack’s veins. He jerked his rifle to his shoulder, sighted on the tiger’s heart, and squeezed the trigger. “Die, you bastard!”

Now let’s analyze this. Note the three parts of the Reaction:

  1. Feeling: “A bolt of raw adrenaline shot through Jack’s veins.” You show this first, because it happens almost instantly.
  2. Reflex: “He jerked his rifle to his shoulder . . .” You show this second, as a result of the fear. An instinctive result that requires no conscious thought.
  3. Rational Action and Speech: “. . . sighted on the tiger’s heart, and squeezed the trigger. ‘Die, you bastard!’”


Forget all these rules. That’s right, ignore the varmints. Just write your chapter in your usual way, putting down any old words you want, in any old way you feel like. There, that feels better, doesn’t it? You are creating, and that’s good. Creation is constructing a story from nothing. It’s hard work, it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’s unstructured. It’s imperfect. Do it without regard for the rules.

When you have finished creating, set it aside for awhile. You will later need to edit it, but now is not the time.

Later on, when you are ready, come back and read your Great Piece of Writing. It will have many nice points to it, but it will not be perfectly structured. Now you are ready to edit it and impose perfect structure on it. This is a different process than Creation. This is Analysis, and it is the opposite of Creation. Analysis is destruction. You must now take it apart and put it back together.

Analyze the scene you have written. Is it a Scene or a Sequel? Or neither? If it is neither, then you must find a way to make it one or the other or you must throw it away. If it is a Scene, verify that it has a Goal, a Conflict, and a Disaster. Identify them each in a one-sentence summary. Likewise, if it’s a Sequel, verify that it has a Reaction, a Dilemma, and a Decision. Identify each of these in a one-sentence summary. If you can’t put the scene into one of these two structures, then throw the scene away as the worthless piece of drivel that it is. You may someday find a use for it as a sonnet or a limerick or a technical manual, but it is not fiction and there is no way to make it fiction, so get rid of it.

Now that you know what your scene is, either Scene or Sequel, rewrite it MRU by MRU. Make sure every Motivation is separated from every Reaction by a paragraph break. It is okay to have multiple paragraphs for a single Motivation or a single Reaction. It is a capital crime to mix them in a single paragraph. When they are separated correctly, you may find you have extra parts that are neither Motivation nor Reaction. Throw them away, no matter how beautiful or clever they are. They are not fiction and you are writing fiction.

Examine each Motivation and make sure that it is entirely objective and external. Show no mercy. You can not afford mercy on anything that poisons your fiction. Kill it or it will kill you.

Now identify the elements of each Reaction and make sure they are as subjective and internal as possible. Present them as nearly as you can from inside the skin of your POV character. Make sure they are in the correct order, with Feelings first, then Reflexive Actions, and finally Rational Actions and Speech. Again, eliminate everything else, even brilliant insights that would surely get you a Nobel peace prize. Brilliant insights are very fine, but if they aren’t fiction, they don’t belong in your fiction. If you can contrive to rearrange such a thing to be in a correct fictional pattern, then fine. Keep it. Otherwise, slit its vile throat and throw the carcass to the wolves. You are a novelist, and that’s what novelists do.

When you reach the end of the scene, whether it is a Scene or a Sequel, check to make sure that everything is correctly placed in an MRU and all carcasses are thrown out. Feel free to edit the scene for style, clarity, wit, spelling, grammar, and any other thing you know how to do. When you are done, pat yourself on the back.

You have written a perfect scene. All is well in your world. You are done with this scene.

Now go do it again and again until you finish your book




Also See:

Our Brand Is Crisis (2015) Movie Quotes

Truth is relative
Role models are only that until you meet them
You can convince yourself of anything
In Politics, the truth is what you tell the electorate it is
You need to be idealistic to get into Politics, but once that’s gone, it’s impossible to get it back
A disposable is that CIA calls an assets that’s both Expendable and Deniable
Don’t change the man to fit the narrative, change the narrative to fit the man
people don’t remember what you say, but what you make them feel
it is far safer to be feared than loved
when voters are looking for hope, they vote for new guy..when they’re fearful, they choose the old one
sell crisis to the electorate
if you fight with monsters for too long, you become one
If voting changed anything, they’ll make it illegal
Elections are advertising. You convince people to buy something they don’t need

The Choice Is Ours

  • The Sixth Extinction is underway by Human Activities
  • By 2040, population will reach 9 Billion
  • We’re consuming resources 50% faster than Earth can renew
  • Are humans incapable of anticipating our future and taking action?
  • Humans are learning animals. Everything we do and think is learnt from others, good or bad
  • We need technology of Behavior
  • The science of Behavior needs to be applied like Physics and Biology
  • All scientists assume that their subjects are lawful and orderly. So do behavior sci entists, as Humans are not separate from Nature, and so are innately orderly like Nature is
  • The Prime Effector?
    • Just like mechanical systems, human behavior does not have a singular cause
    • Environment affects behavior and env. is never the same for any 2 people
    • Even beauty and aesthetics are learnt concepts differing from culture to culture and generations to generations
  • Blaming people for their behavior is Deterimental as we assume a human is in control of their behavior. The scientific perspective is the opposite of thi. It’s determinist one that our behavior is caused.
  • We don’t change our minds. Our minds are changed by events
  • Brain has no discrimination
  • Laws are valid and followed and helpful only if certain conditions like food shelter etc. are met for everyone
  • We are physically and mentally enslaved by things that we created Eg. Money
  • The current Fed System and Banks making money out of thin air is called Federal Reserve Lending and ensures that people in the entire nation are in Perpetual Debt
  • The problem is the corrupt people entering the system, so it doesn’t matter who you vote for, when they all are bought and paid for. All elections are sham.
  • The success of the developed world is dependent on the failure of the developing world, and it will never change
  • Poor countries are paying 600 billion in debt to the first world and are loosing another 1.4 trillion due to unfair trade laws
  • Poverty is a Vicious Cycle, as it diminishes the mental and physical capacity of the person affecting his ability to get out of it.
  • Our brutal competitive behaviors aren’t human nature, but simply a result of scarcity making us all competitors in the fight to attain what we need to survive
  • While some resources are scarce, most scarcity is artificially created
  • Take profit our of war, and you’ll end it
  • Take money out of politics, and you’ll fix the system
  • The structure of our socio economic system that has these pillars:
    • Private Property
    • Profit
    • Open Mkt.
  • If Jobs go away to automation, then the laid off worker wound’t buy cars as well and so the economy will collapse
  • Solution?
    • Abundance
    • The current problem is technical in nature and so needs Technical People and not politicians to solve this.

Card and other Fun Games


  • Gola Chor: Put one Joker in the deck and distribute the deck evenly amongst all players. Next, every player will take out all pairs of cards. Finally each player will pull one card from the adjacent player and try to complete his pair. One who gets rid oa all cards firsts wins, and one who’s left with the lone joker in the end loses.
  • Rummy
  • Donkey
  • Bluff
  • Baccarat
    • Punto: Player
    • Banco: Banker
    • Tie
    • Rules
      • Modulo 10 ie count the 2 cards handed to each player and to banker and keep units digit
      • payoff for punto and banco is 1:1 and for tie it’s 9:1
      • 3rd card rules for player
        • if player has 0 to 5 score in his 2 cards, he must draw
        • For score of 6 or 7 he must stand ie he can’t draw 3rd card
        • for 8 or 9, both stand
      • 3rd card rules for banker
        •  0 to 2 must draw
        • 3 to 6  draw depends on player’s value
        • 7 must stand
        •  for 8 or 9, both stand
  • Poker
    • Texas hold ’em
    • Indian Poker (Teen Patti) : The one which I play with 4,3,2 or 1 cards and winning is in order of Trail, Sequence, Pair …
      • VARIATION:
      • Color Burst:
  • Craps
  • Karran (indian): The one I play were you sum up the 4,3 or 2 cards and 9 in units digit of the sum wins. Also Trail is higher than Bug( all J,Q or K) which is higher than 9.
  • SlapJack: Players take out one card after other and Player who slaps jack takes the pile (variations include slapping sandwich (like 3-4-3), doubles (4-4) etc. ) and penalties like missing next slap when wrongly slapped.\
  • Satte Pe Satta
  • Blackjack/21
    • The players put initial bets before the start of game.
    • 1 player acts as dealer and gives out cards to each other player until they say stop.
    • The players need to have their cards total as near to 21 as they can get as per following rules:
      • 2 to 9 count as is
      • 1 can act as 1 or 11
      • K acts as 11
      • J and Q are 10 each
    • In the end, the players are judged against the dealer to see who get closer to 21:
      • If the player gets closer than dealer, dealer doubles the player’s bet
      • If the player equals the dealer, he keeps his betting amount
      • If the player gets less close than dealer, dealer takes away his betting money.
  • 24
    • Chausar
  • 28
  • Go Fish
  • Crazy Eights (like UNO)
    • Crazy Jacks
  • Spades ( High card wins and color trumps)
    • Court Piece: Most popular in India 
      • Double 10s: twist on court piece with following rules:
        • like in court piece, there are 4 players in 2 teams and each gets 13 cards. The winner of previous game/toss can look at the first 5 of their cards to decide the color for the game.
        • when the game starts, the objective is to win only the rounds where any player has put in any of the 4 10s.
          • As soon as someone puts a 10, the person who wins 2 rounds (including the one in which the 10 was put) wins that 10 ie 1 point.
          • If someone else wins the 2nd round, he gets the advantage and if he individually wins the next round as well, then he gets the 1 point.
          • Note that if in this sequence, if someone else puts in another 10, then the 2 round get reset and anyone would have to win the 2 rounds starting the latest 10. Also, whoever wins that will now win 2 points as there are 2 10s in the picture and so on for 3 and 4 10s entering the game at the same time.
        • The objective of the team is to win 3 out of the 4 10s in the game.
    • Bridge ( court piece with one player playing with open cards)
    • Teen Do Paanch (3-2-5) :SPades for 3 players
    • Spades for 2 players: SevenEight
    • Indian Rummy aka Paplu
  • President
  • Hearts
  • Cribbage
  • Solitaire
  • Old Maid
  • War
  • Spoons


  • Pitthu
  • Badminton
  • Kabaddi
  • Dog and the bone
  • Ice and Water


  • Charades
  • Dark Room
  • Touch-and-Feel 
  • I Spy
  • Simon Says
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Hide and Seek
  • Duck, Duck, Goose
  • Animal Charades
  • Musical Chairs
  • Indoor Bowling: Get some empty water bottles or plastic cups, a ball, and start bowling!
  • Basketball: Make a few “snowballs” out of pairs of socks, get a laundry basket (or smaller receptacles for more challenge), and you’re all set
  • Marbles
  • Dominoes
  • Two Truths and a Lie
  • Sock Wars
  • Telephone
  • Freeze!

Board Games

a. Candy Land
b. Sorry!
c. Monopoly
d. Chutes and Ladders
e. Chess
f. Checkers
g. Pictionary
h. Scrabble
i. Twister


  • spyfall offline (also on web:
  • Heads Up!
  • spaceteam
  • smule sing (for karaoke)
  • 5 second guess
  • King of Opera
  • Who Cant Draw
  • Reverse Charades
  • Cards against Friends
  • Psych
  • Teledoodle
  • Treasure hunt
  • sing
  • Mini Militia
  • Subway Surf  AND Smash Hit (take turns playing or play on different phones and compete for high score)

Paper Games

Classic games that are fun to play anytime!

a. Hangman (instructions)
b. Dots and Boxes (instructions)
c. Tick-tack-toe (instructions)


Alphabet Game

This one is all about coming up with themes. I’ve listed some below to get you started. Within your chosen theme, take turns with letters of the alphabet and come up with things in the theme. For instance, in the theme “Animals”, you would have anteater, baboon, carp, duck, etc.

a. Animals
b. Countries and US states
c. Famous people (many sub-categories here, actors, actresses, etc)
d. Household items
e. Kitchen items
f. Food
g. Drinks
h. Movies
i. Cartoon characters

Variations – Normally played in the car, start from “A” and say things that you see while driving.

Dice Games

Fun with dice!

a. Beetle (instructions)
b. Dice chess (instructions)
c. Yahtzee (instructions)
d. Farkle (instructions)


PS: Check out these card game apps