Since I’ve begun listening to audiobooks, I’ve noticed that not all books convert well to the audible format. So I started this little series: Audiobook Pitfalls. The sale of audiobooks is on the rise, and most new releases (not just bestsellers) are now made into audiobooks as well as e-books and print books, so it’s important for authors to be aware of how their writing may or may not work without the visual cues of the page.
Today, we’re going to talk about scene breaks. Most chapters are made up of multiple scenes, and visually these are separated by a space on the page, but in audiobooks it’s simply a slightly longer pause, which, if your scene isn’t well-structured, just doesn’t work. Here’s why…
Pitfall #2 = Random Scene Breaks
This is a pitfall whether you’re reading a paperback or listening to an audiobook – it’s just much more obvious when listening to a story. It almost makes me wish I could hire an actor to read my manuscripts to critique partners – creating beta listeners instead of readers, if you will. Of course, writers are always advised to read their work out loud for word selection and flow, but recognizing a confusing scene break is nearly impossible when you are the writer because you know what’s going on. But to a listener who is fresh to your story, a bad scene break will be jarring and confusing.
So what is a bad scene break? To me, this is when a scene just ends, seemingly in a random spot, without a conclusion. It’s when I (the audiobook listener) suddenly find myself with a different character, or in a different location, or something, and wonder, “Did I blank out for a few seconds?” Hitting rewind reveals that no, I didn’t blank out, I started a new scene, and the problem is the previous scene didn’t really end, so when the next scene started, I wasn’t prepared for it. Hence the confusion. So I’ve come up with a few tips to avoid that…
3 Crucial Tips for Writing Scenes That End
1) Structure scenes like mini-stories. Just like your whole novel, every scene should have an inciting incident, rising action, midpoint reversal, crisis and resolution. To put it another way, scenes need arcs. Often when a scene seems to just randomly end, it’s because it doesn’t have this structure, especially the resolution.
[tweetthis]#writetip – A scene is a mini-story and needs an arc and a resolution.[/tweetthis]
2) Address the character’s scene goal. Resolving a scene doesn’t necessarily mean solving the problem. The resolution in a scene comes from addressing the goal. In each scene the character will have a goal, and by the end of the scene the character will have succeeded or failed. It doesn’t matter which, positive or negative, just that there’s a resolution to the action which necessitates that character come up with a new goal to achieve what they want in the next scene. (Note: a cliffhanger is what I would consider a “negative resolution” because the scene goal has gone horribly wrong, leaving the reader wondering what will happen, but the original goal was still addressed.)
[tweetthis]#writetip – To resolve a scene, address the goal positively OR negatively.[/tweetthis]
3) Change. Yes, my favourite writing topic! Something must change in every scene, and if it doesn’t the reader/listener will be left going, “Is that it? Was that the whole scene? What was the point of that?!”
[tweetthis]#writetip – Every scene needs change to be complete.[/tweetthis]