4 Techniques for Adding Depth to a Scene

shutterstock_187206578Have you ever wondered how to add emotional depth to a scene you’ve written? There are a number of techniques you can use to inject emotional depth and drama into a scene. Here are my top four techniques for scene deepening:

1. Ban the bland

Many writers create a bland main character surrounded by quirky, interesting secondary characters. Let your hero be the one who goes through emotional experiences in the scene. Secondary characters should play off/react to the main character’s emotions, not the other way around.

2. Heighten suspense through avoidance

Have your characters dance around an emotionally charged issue. By hinting at trouble to come rather than addressing it directly, you will avoid “on the nose” writing, plus you will create suspense for your readers.

3. One stimulus, two responses

You can inject some energy into a scene by giving your characters contrasting responses to the same situation in a scene. The following example is a bit of a cliche, but think of the veteran cop who doesn’t blink an eye at a gory murder scene, contrasted with his newbie partner who is quietly losing his lunch in the bushes.

4. The human touch

Seed your scenes with small, human moments. Think of the gruff cop who, after he throws his arrestee into the slammer, offers to buy him a bag of chips from the vending machine.

There are dozens of ways to deepen a story scene. Which techniques have you used, and can recommend?



4 thoughts on “4 Techniques for Adding Depth to a Scene

  1. Good tips, Kathryn. Similar to #4, I try to put something unexpected in every scene, eve if it’s just one line of dialogue that seems out of the blue. Avoiding the expected is one of the keys to page-turning fiction.

  2. Well done! In my first Dead-End Job mystery, SHOP TILL DROP, I explained why Helen was on the run in South Florida right away. My editor had me rewrite the book and save the reason till the end. SHOP is now in its 14th printing.

  3. I love lists like this. Another tip s to follow William Goldman’s advice, which is to enter our scenes at the last possible moment. That allows us to get right to the heart of the scene, which is where the emotional resonance resides. It’s easy to overkill the setup (which is rarely imbued with emotional resonance) with such trite space fillers as excessive chit-chat, serving coffee before the real dialogue begins, and over-wrought description. The further into the novel a scene appears, the less tee-up is required. Nicely done, Kathryn.

Comments are closed.