I discovered the other day that many of my scenes end up being set in the same places in my current novel. My characters seem to eat a lot. Well, that’s not too bad, is it? I mean, we all eat several times a day, right?
Except this means I have several scenes set in the dining hall. Two or three scattered through the novel might be ok, four, five, six or seven? Um.
The thing is, it not only gets repetitive, it gets boring and samey for the reader. They feel like they’ve already read this scene, so I took my characters out of the dining hall and into a market place instead. With a few tweaks and extra description added, the scene improved vastly. I have a scene set in the buttery (not the place for churning butter:
a place where the ‘butts’ of ale were stored), one in a barn and another in a hayloft. I even have one (okay, two) in a graveyard.
The trick is in thinking about your character’s daily lives and where they have to go. Anywhere can make an interesting scene – front doorstep of a house, library, beach, bathroom, skilift, lighthouse – and if it’s somewhere the main character shouldn’t be, so much the better!
Some scenes need to take place in an enclosed space; this builds tension between the characters because they can’t easily get away from each other.
Other scenes are better suited to wider spaces. This can build pace and tension. Have the scene in the opposite setting your characters need. So, for example, if you have your hero desperately trying to find your heroine and they need to be together – then choose a wide open setting. They need to be together, and if they are far apart it creates tension.
If your heroine needs to escape a killer, have the scene in a tight space, thus building tension.
If a couple are have a fullblown argument, confine them to a
and see what happens.