use scene breaks to cut the fat

How to Use Scene Breaks to Cut the Fat

This week’s video demonstrates from Brandon Sanderson’s breakout fantasy Elantris how to skillfully insert scene breaks to spare your readers the boring parts.

Video Transcription:

Word count is a weighty consideration for any writer, but even more important is the need to keep unnecessary fat from weighing down our stories. Fat takes many shapes, everything from repetitive dialogue to extraneous characters. Certainly, one of the most flagrant areas of fat accumulation is in scene transitions. Too often, we write out the transitions in lengthy paragraphs that recount our character’s every step between one room and another.

In his breakout fantasy Elantris, Brandon Sanderson shows us how to trim these pointless filler bits by utilizing one of our most useful and invisible tools: the scene break. Although Sanderson’s book is no lightweight—it weighs in at almost 700 pages—he does a good job of cutting out the boring fat that could easily have doubled his page count. He uses scenes break not only in the obvious places to indicate changes of POV or setting, but also to cut even seemingly innocuous segments, such as his antagonist climbing a lengthy flight of stairs.

The result Sanderson produces neatly trims the fat from his story, but it also contributes to a sense of speed in his pacing. He could easily have written a short sentence that would have brushed over the antagonist’s climb up the stairs, but thanks to the scene break, he indicates the passage of time to the reader in a tight, snappy fashion that keeps his story rolling right along.

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.

Comments

  1. So glad I saw this today… I’m working on a scene that could definitely use a scene break and I didn’t even think about it until your vlog! Awesome, thanks!

  2. ah, KM, your tips are so helpful and always seem to be so well timed for me… are you spying on me??? LOL–j/k! Thanks–as always, good stuff~

  3. Very useful. I’m working on a WriMo right now, so extra words are my friends, but when I edit, I’ll remember

  4. @Elegant: It’s amazing sometimes how something as simple as a scene break can perk up a scene.

    @LTM: Yep, got my spy bots roaming about. Never know what they’re going to report back next!

  5. @Galadriel: Keep knocking out those word counts!

  6. Very helpful!

  7. Thanks for watching!

  8. I just wanted you to know that although I never comment, I read every single post you write and I find them really helpful. You do a great job! :-)

  9. Thanks, Wendy! I appreciate that, and I’m so glad you’re enjoying the posts.

  10. A reference to a fantasy story? Hmm, sounds interesting :D
    What do you say? Wouldn’t the best way to learn be; reading it

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