The Function of a Scene: To Reveal Character

Last week, we discussed some of the chief functions of a scene. The first was to reveal character.  Today we will discuss that function in greater detail. 

A scene is not a scene without a character. It would simply be a vignette.  In fiction writing, the term “scene” implies someone acting in some way.  A scene must have at least one character, and that character must display action, whether  physical, mental, or emotional. Also, the character must be in some sort of increasing conflict. 

In her outstanding book, Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, Debra Dixon describes the three essential elements of a character in a scene.  First of all, your character must have a goal in the scene.  Your character must have a reason–or motivation–for going after her goal. And, finally, your character must encounter conflict in pursuing her goal. 

As the author, you too must have a goal for your scene. Before writing the scene, ask yourself what you want to accomplish in that scene. How do you want further to develop your character’s growth arc? How do you want to move your story forward? 

By taking into consideration the steps above, you will be fulfilling the first function of a scene: to reveal character. 

Next week we’ll look at another function of a scene: A good scene advances the plot.

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2 thoughts on “The Function of a Scene: To Reveal Character

  1. Donald Maass also stresses conflict – any kind – on each page. But don’t you think a break now and then is a good thing? I want to keep the reader turning the page, but I also don’t want them exhausted or frustrated all the time. As a reader, I enjoy a “vacation” from tension or conflict. It’s finding a balance, I think.

    January 24, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    • Yes, Pam, I agree that a “break now and then is a good thing.” The important point to keep in mind is not to do anything to break the tension.

      Thanks for your post. 🙂

      MaryAnn

      February 1, 2011 at 11:50 AM