SCENE 28: Scene Length


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Best Length for Scenes?

What’s the best length for a scene? IS there a best length? lifetimeIn his book, Lessons from a Lifetime of Writing, action/adventure author, David Morrell (creator of the Rambo character, among others), says he tries to write short chapters (or we can translate this to scenes, too), so that a reader can complete one chapter (or structural unit, i.e. a scene) at one sitting.

He bases his ideas on two essays by Edgar Allen Poe, The Philosophy of Composition and The Poetic Principle. Poe argues that short scenes/chapters are better because they accommodate the human form which needs to move around. We get up to go to the bathroom, to relieve a hurting back, etc. By keeping scenes short, you will keep the reader turning pages and actually reading every word.

Morrell says he keeps his structural units small in order to accommodate the reader’s bladder, TV interruptions, phone calls, a neighbor who drops in, etc. Poe’s essay is worth reading, as is Morrell’s chapter on “The Tactics of Structure.”

So, there’s not really a right or wrong. I’ve read 30 page scenes and I’ve read 1/3 page scenes. Whatever works. But if in doubt, short is better than longer. (Kinda reminds me of blog posts! Short is often better.)