Image by Jess Bailey
Image by Robert Katzki

The Single-Scene:
A Flexible Framework for Powerfully Focusing Your Narrative

Sustenance
September 2022

Definition:
A single-scene story is a short literary work—fiction or creative nonfiction/essay—that takes place in only one scene, one geographical coordinate, and/or one window of time (as defined by Margaret Bishop in her fantastic anthology Single Scene Short Stories). It is a remarkably tight, polished, and immaculately creative endeavor in that the full thrust and momentum of the work must be achieved within the physical parameters of one particular narrative scene, and thus allows for no change of setting or costuming, no possibility to transport the reader from one place to another, and very little voice-over summary or exposition. While a writer may use brief instances of flashback, foreshadowing, forecasting, and/or backstory to provide slight context to the present scene, the writer (and reader) must remain within the framework of that one particular narrative moment. Many writers draft single-scene stories to develop and publish as standalone works, but there is also tremendous value in practicing the art of the single-scene story as a way of further developing  your ability to “show v. tell” (render immersive narrative moments that drop your reader into that moment alongside you, as opposed to simply telling them about it) and as a way to provide structure to a book-length project.


Craft Talk
+ Craft Talk PowerPoint (for individual use only)

Craft Talk Readings:
+ Reading: Lee Gutkind's "The Yellow Test"
+ Reading: Dylan Nice's "Teeth" 

+ Reading: T Kira Madden's "The Lizard" 
+ Reading: Ryan Van Meter's "First" 

Craft Talk Exercises:
+ Exercise #1: The Single-Scene Narrative Essay
+ Exercise #2: The Small Made Large

 

Image by Jess Bailey