The Long and Short of It: Scenes

Anne hathaway long and short hair

Scene lengths in novels are highly debated. Some believe there should be a set rule of what is too long or too short, while others believe that each scene should be orchestrated like a symphonic masterpiece of emotion. So, the question really is… Can a scene be too long or too short?

I think we need to look at what the scene is doing and why, before we make any hasty judgments either way. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of the scene? Is it building tension? Is it action? Do you want to draw out the reader? How do we want the reader to feel when they’re reading this scene? These are all key points to think about in the execution of your scene.

Recently, I came across a scene or two I needed to lengthen. For whatever your reasons, take a look at your scenes. It’s important for you to analyze and vary the length of your scenes. If all your scenes are exactly the same size it will affect the pacing of the story in a negative way.

Genre Makes a Difference!

Genre is a big deal when you look at scene size. It’s going to be different for a thriller than say, a romance. The reader’s emotions are going to be affected by this. Beware and get it right! Short choppy scenes can be effective in a thriller, but just wouldn’t work well in romance.

Is There an Average Length?

Some people say 750 words are the average scene length of an average novel. I would debate this to some extent because you know as well as I do, that rules are, and will be broken. I will say that if the scene tells the story you need it to, then the scene size works. Look at each scene as a complete story.

Short Scene Issues?

If your story has short scene after short scene, you may not be going deep enough. Instead, simplify your story, merging several shorter scenes into one longer scene.

Another reason your scenes might be too short might be because you’re telling and not showing. Adding more description can pace your story and draw out more depth and meaning. Too much description will bore your readers, but too little will leave them feeling like something’s missing.

The best way to add interesting description to your story is to be more specific!

Go with Your Gut!

As long as the rise and fall patterns work in your scenes you should be fine. If the emotion you’re trying to achieve isn’t happening, then it’s time to take a look at how your scenes are set up. Mix up your scenes. Longer scene, shorter scene, longer scene …can help break up two longer scenes which might be slowing down the reader and the pacing.

Do you have tips you’d like to share about scene size? Share them here! I’d love to hear your thoughts.




Jennifer Bennett

About Jennifer Bennett

Jennifer J. Bennett was born in Southern California as the youngest of six children. Her imagination began to develop as a child creating worlds in her backyard. Books have always played a big role in her life; favorites growing up were “The Country Bunny” by Dubose Heyward, “The Light in the Attic”by Shel Silverstein, and “Island of the Blue Dolphins” by Scott O’ Dell among many, many others. She also enjoys music, theater, travel, and cooking.

Jennifer moved from Southern California in 1989 and finished high school in Southern Utah where she met her husband Matthew Bennett who currently works in educational administration. They reside in St. George, Utah with four amazing kids: Haylee, Chase, Conner, and Libby. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, she began writing her first novel, “The Path”. Her father encouraged her to move forward with her writing and she has continued since. He passed away in 2009.

Jen, as her friends call her; can be found buzzing around California from time to time in search of magical elements from the past. She tries to balance fun, being a mom, and trying to be a grownup (which she really isn’t sure she ever wants to be).

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