The University of Iowa

Why Make a Scene?

Weekend June 27 to June 28 2020

Creating a public display of emotion is one way of describing what it means to “make a scene.” While public spectacles tend to be spontaneous, creating scenes on paper usually requires considerable planning and forethought. In The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer, author Sandra Scofield defines scenes as “those passages in narrative when we slow down and focus on an event in the story so that we are ‘in the moment’ with characters in action.” If the scene is compelling enough, the reader becomes a bystander of sorts, and characters come to life.


Scenes are the building blocks of narrative, regardless of the form that narrative takes. Anyone who writes short stories, novellas, novels, memoirs, screenplays or dramatic plays must be proficient at creating compelling scenes. In fact, the decision to write in scene or summary is made on the basis of importance. If the event or moment is significant in the life of the story, chances are you will want to develop it through scene. What’s less important ends up being summarized.


During our time together, you can anticipate a variety of activities: a little lecture, more discussion, and as much writing as we can squeeze into one weekend. We will analyze your favorite scenes to discover their secrets, revise scenes you’ve brought from home, and draft new ones to practice your skills. 


All are welcome—unrepentant scene-makers and newcomers just finding their voices. 


In this workshop, we will generate new writing through exercises and assignments; critique writing you bring from home; provide feedback on writing you produce in our weekend.

Short Story
Young Adult