Below, we’ll talk about creating a scene. When you write stories, you should think of them as a film or TV show, with a series of interlinked ‘scenes’. Each scene should feel distinctive and self-contained – it has to exist in its own time and space, and follow logical rules that make it believable and easy for the reader to picture. The best scenes, however, also have a sense of ‘part to whole’, where they are separate episodes that form part of an overarching story.

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TASK 1: 
Think of two stories that you know well – they can be either novels or films. Write down three scenes that you remember clearly in the stories, and the details that you remember from them – this may include setting, dialogue, clothing, gesture, or any other significant features. Compare and contrast the scenes in your stories – how are the details similar, or different? What is the tone and/or mood of each scene?

How to prepare yourself for a Descriptive Writing Exam

Here are some rules to remember: 

  • Each scene should have clear details that enable readers to clearly imagine the action, setting and characters. 
  • Don’t give every single detail that you imagine in your head – often, that is too much information for the reader to process. Instead, focus on a few significant details that are elliptical – they stand for something bigger than themselves, in a symbolic way where they help us to picture the whole situation. 
  • Use imagery – particularly visual imagery – to set the scene. 
  • Make sure your characters interact with the setting and environment, rather than just feeling like they are ‘placed’ in there. 
  • Be aware of your characters’ motivations and intentions in the scene. 
  • Think about mood, tone and atmosphere – you may also want to create a shift in these as the scene progresses. 
  • Consider the focal points – is it a wide or close focus, or does it shift as the scene develops? 
  • Think of the scene like a ‘bubble’ – it should have a self-contained logical start and endpoint, shifting in tension as it progresses. 
TASK 2: 
Read the scene below several times. Analyse how it creates the scene through structure and language, paying attention to the following details: 
Focal points and shifts of focus Characterisation Setting Dialogue Imagery and language techniques

Extract from The Beach, by Alex Garland

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