On Setting a Scene

Because I have multiple PoVs, I often have back-to-back scenes with different PoV characters. A lot of the time, they haven’t been seen or heard of for several chapters. I often forget that the reader needs to be reminded of what’s happened to them since.

A bad habit I have is to start a scene without setting it up properly, without telling the reader where the PoV character is, and sometimes without even establishing upfront who the PoV character is. This can be very disorienting to the reader. Another bad habit I have is to start a scene with dialogue. As Daiva explains below, this is also a big no-no.

Daiva: Every new scene needs to be properly set up to create the backdrop for the action. If you start with dialogue it shows up in the reader's mind as some talking head in empty space. Even if it’s the same location where you ended the previous scene, you inserted a scene break for a reason, so you still need to show who and where your PoV character is and who is around them.

D: Think about every scene break as a signal for the reader to take a break from your story. (We are not talking about cliff-hanger chapter endings where you want to propel the reader straight into the next chapter.) At a scene break, a reader might go pour a cup of tea or spend some time with family. If you start the scene assuming your reader is reading straight through, you risk making them feel a bit disoriented when they don’t.

D: To avoid confusion and to keep the reader engaged, the read needs to be smooth and seamless, so start by setting a scene with one or two sentences, no more than one short paragraph.

D: Things to keep in mind while setting the scene:

  • Who is your PoV character?

  • Where are they?

  • Who else is present?

  • What time is it?

  • How much time has passed since the last time we saw this character?


Get into the habit of setting a scene up properly. Making sure the reader knows what they need to know will reduce confusion, making the read smooth and seamless. The less the reader has to work to understand what’s going on, the more likely they will keep reading. Hope that helps!