Stories start with scenes. Much like the movie, scenes are woven together to form the fabric of a book. Most of the time, we want to balance our scenes using three elements of fiction: dialogue, action and narrative. This is one reason you must put your character in a scene with other characters whenever possible. Scenes that blend together these three elements engage the reader at an emotional level much more effectively than scenes that are only dialogue, only narrative or only action.

Having said that, knowing when to only focus on one element is as important as learning to blend them all together. Is it ever a good thing to create a scene with only dialogue narrative or action?

If you want to highlight a particular character trait in your viewpoint character or focus on something specific that the characters are talking about, you don’t want the scene cluttered. You know how sometimes when someone is telling you a story, the setting, the other people around you, everything just kind of fades away, and you’re intent only on what the other person is saying? This is what it’s like when you cut away action and narrative and leave only your characters’ spoken words.

Pacing is probably the most common fiction element to pay attention to when considering when and when not to blend dialogue, narrative and action. If you’re creating a fast-paced conflict scene between two or more people, you might do well to consider only dialogue, at least for parts of it.

There are no rules about when and when not to blend dialogue, action and narrative. To weave them together well is to find your story’s rhythm. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself about your story, especially in the rewrite stage, that can help you know which elements are most effective for a particular scene, and which might be better used elsewhere.

More about those questions in the next post. Until then, keep writing.