Are Your Scene Breaks Rude?

Are Your Scene Breaks Rude?

Aside from making certain chapter and scene breaks are scintillating enough to keep readers reading, most writers don’t give scene breaks too much thought. But we should.

Chapter and scene breaks can often show a lack of courtesy from the author toward the readers. And if shunning those good manners your mother drilled into you isn’t horror enough, here’s an even more disturbing thought: this same rudeness can lead to the even more egregious faux pas of leaving readers wallowing in confusion.

What I’m talking about is simply a failure on the author’s part to reorient readers at the beginning of every scene. On its most basic—and most prevalent—level this failure takes the form of beginning the scene by introducing the POV character with a pronoun.

For example, scenes often open with a simple, “He hurried into the phone booth,” or “She sat down and cried.” As the author, of course, you know exactly to whom these pronouns refer. Particularly if this new scene takes place in the middle of an ongoing chapter and features the same POV character as the previous scene, you may naturally assume readers will understand who you’re talking about.

However, the problem with this assumption is twofold.

1. The very fact that you’ve begun a new scene is a cue to readers that, as far as they know, everything has changed, including the POV character and even the setting.

2. Despite your best efforts, readers will inevitably set down your book at a scene break. Sooner or later, you can bank on it—it’s going to happen. Who knows how many hours or days, or even weeks, may pass before they pick the book up again. If you begin a new scene with nothing more than an ambiguous pronoun, readers are likely to be lost. They’ll have to skim all around the page just to be sure who they’re reading about.

Identifying your POV character by name at the beginning of every scene is a simple and important courtesy to your readers.

>>Click here to read “7 Questions You Have About Scenes vs. Chapters

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you ever been confused by a pronoun after another author’s scene break? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

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