Scene Salad – The Simplest Way To Make The Most Of A Scene


Unless you’re a rabbit or a supermodel, a salad made up of just lettuce would be pretty bland, right? You want juicy cherry tomatoes, cool slices of cucumber, spicy onion and topped with a tangy vinaigrette.

And it’s the same with a scene in a story or novel. You want it to have all the right ingredients, with a great mix of everything to make it satisfying.

A while back, I wrote about the salad method and I would like share the full ‘recipe’ with you. What I like about this approach, is that it breaks our linear approach to writing.

It also serves as a nice ‘check list’ to make sure you have everything your scene needs and you have created balance.

So, how do you create the Scene Salad?

Here is a quick snapshot. OK, so let’s say you’re going to write a comic scene where your action tween heroine, Clarabelle, confronts an evil little genius, Tarquin, as part of a fun action story for middle grade readers.

First, you create a ‘chopping board’ of all the ingredients you think you will need.

The Scene

The Rocking Horse toy store was deserted and it took Clarabelle’s eyes time to adjust to the dark.

Streetlights and neon on Queens Avenue threw bright candy colours across the silhouettes of the toys and mannequins.

She had always loved this toy emporium – it smelled of bubblegum and crayons. She’d had the best times here with her Mom, her gran, friends. But it sure was creepy at night. She could sense that creepiness all down her spine.

Where was Tarquin hiding? Clarabelle stood, arms akimbo, eyes scanning the floor. The sneaky little boy was in here somewhere!

Just then, she noticed his tell-tale purple ballet slippers peeking out from behind a carousel of stuffed Panda bears.

‘Come out, Tarq! This isn’t a game of hide and seek.’

A sinister and nasty giggle. ‘Oh, but I thought you liked playing games.’

‘Not when people get kidnapped,’ she called out. ‘Not when people could get hurt.’

‘It’s too late.’ Tarquin stepped out from the shadows, dressed head to toe in a black unitard.  ‘You’ll never find that senile old toymaker or the secret formula.’

‘That’s where you’re wrong,’ she said. ‘We’ve found the location of your handout. It’s just a matter of time before we find Mr Harris.’

His pale face scrunched up with rage, Tarquin rushed at her. Quick as a flash, she grabbed an aerosol can of Silly String, whipping off the cap and spraying pink streamers into his eyes.

Blinded, he crashed into her and they both fell into a stack of Circle of Wizards board games.

Clarabelle struggled to get out under him – he had surprising strength for such a skinny and short twerp.

‘You should’ve stayed on the playground, little girl.’

She tried to wriggle free, but he had her around the waist. Swinging her legs back, she landed a donkey kick to his middle. He’d always been a bully at school, so why should she fight fair?

Tarquin writhed on the ground, as Clarabelle grabbed a lasso from a life-size cowboy doll and trussed up her target. ‘And you should’ve stayed home with Mommy,’ she panted. ‘She’s the only one who can help you now.’

As if in agreement, the cowboy’s mechanical voice broke out with a triumphant, ‘Yeehaw!’

Be flexible

You will notice that some of the dialogue has changed and other elements shifted. That’s fine. The idea is simply to make sure you have the right balance of action, dialogue and description.

Try to keep the viewpoint and tone consistent with the genre you’re writing. It will make the writing a little easier too.

 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

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