I think first of all, we need to know what a scene is. I like this definition from the website Holly Lisle:
The scene is the smallest discrete unit in fiction; it is the smallest bit of fiction that contains the essential elements of story. You don't build a story or a book of words and sentences and paragraphs -- you build it of scenes, one piled on top of the next, each changing something that came before, all of them moving the story inexorably and relentlessly forward.
...It contains the single element that gives your story life, movement, and excitement. ...Change.
When is a scene a scene? When something changes. What defines the completion of a scene? The moment of change.Okay, so that's a scene.
The reason I prefer to use the terminology of scene rather than chapter is that sometimes my chapters have more than one scene. How do we know we've got a scene?
Lets take a page from my WIP scene notebook: (There are 3 main parts.)
Scene # (you can write your own scene # here):
- Goal: In this case, my MCs are going to the _____ (I wont say here in case I spoil my book for any future readers) to track down the killer. They don't know who he is, they only know where he works. And, they know it's a 'he'.
- Conflict: They enter but they don't find any men. The person in charge at this ____ won't help them and when they finally get her to cooperate and hand over a list of men who work there and find the one who matches a previous address in their list of suspects...
- Disaster: They find out ----- (something shocking - I wont say what that is and ruin the surprise)
- Reaction - they are shocked and frustrated not to find the killer readily available - but at least they have his name
- Dilemma - they have to find out where he lives
- Decision - they get his home address and decide to go there...
Picture Sources: Men with Pens
Source: Advanced Fiction Writing