A scene is a dramatic unit that begins at one fixed point in time and ends at another. It depicts action, and that action can and often does include dialogue, although it doesn't have to. (For instance, in Ernest Hemingway's “The Big Two-Hearted River, Part One,” the scenes of Nick Adams making camp and fishing are scenes without dialogue.) Scenes, in contrast to summaries, show us an action or sequence of actions in something that usually approximates real time — that is, they move forward the way we feel time moving forward. (Of course, that sense is an illusion created by effective prose rendering of actions.) Scenes are often constructed around a character or characters struggling for something — some objective. In order to achieve their objectives, characters use a variety of means, usually starting with the least expenditure of energy and building as required, in an individual scene or across several scenes, until the objective is either gained or lost, or until the outcome is put on hold by the author to create suspense. A scene might cover five minutes of real time in about eight pages (as in Robert Stone's “Helping”), or it might cover three hours of real time in two hundred pages (as in Marcel Proust's The Guermantes Way). There is no rule on how long a scene must be, but there are some general rules of thumb for composing effective scenes. Have you tried storytelling with data to boost customer engagement?

One rule of thumb is to get in late and leave early. That is, join a scene that's already in progress. If the scene involves a couple having an argument (as many great scenes do, including Raymond Carver's “Will You Please Be Quiet, Please,” Ernest Hemingway's “Hills Like White Elephants,” and Mary Gaitskill's “Stuff”), you don't need to show the husband pulling into the driveway, putting the car in the garage, then ignoring his kids on the front lawn as he makes his way up the path to the front door. Instead, you can begin the argument at the point when the husband pours his second scotch, or third. Join the scene in progress, and leave it early. And you don't have to wait until the argument is over to end the scene. Maybe the wife says something that encapsulates the whole meaning of the argument, of the scene, of the marriage. You might want to get out there, not at the point where the husband walks out of the room and picks up the TV remote. Another rule of thumb is to intersperse narration in dialogue. Scenes, as I discussed in the dialogue section, can benefit from narration in their midst. In other words, don't rely solely on dialogue to drive your scenes. When you find your characters are talking too much (or more than you want them to), when you find that what they're saying is running away with the scene, take the control back from them. Could storytelling for business be of real value to your business?

Report what one or the other says; don't use direct dialogue. For example, notice the difference in these two scenes: Daphne and Martin met for a dinner date at a quiet restaurant in the neighborhood. Their waitress had just placed their main courses. “I like potatoes,” she said. “Marvelous,” he told her. “I like carrots, too.” “Imagine that,” he said. “And celery. Asparagus. I can't say much for yams, but I do enjoy a beet now and then. A red beet. Turnips, too. Yes, asparagus, beets, turnips, too. Did you know that the turnip was a staple of Iroquois cuisine? Or was it Mohican? Or am I confusing the turnip with maize, which is really just another name for corn after all, isn't it? What's the difference between corn and Indian corn? Do you know, I mean botanistically speaking? I know it's different in color, but is it a different animal altogether? Cornus Indianus or something? But corn — I'm talking about regular corn now, not Indian — corn I'm rather fond of. Not creamed corn. Corn on the cob, fresh corn. You wrap it in tin foil and put it on the grill, or you boil it, then you drown it in butter. I love it when it's drowned in butter. You can ladle melted butter over the boiled ear, or you can twirl the ear along the top of the butter stick. Which method do you prefer? God — I just remembered candy corn!” This scene would benefit if the author took back a little control. Daphne and Martin met for a dinner date at a quiet restaurant in the neighborhood. Their waitress had just placed their main courses. “I like potatoes,” she said. “Marvelous,” he told her. “I like carrots, too.” “Imagine that,” he said. “And celery. Asparagus. I can't say much for yams, but I do enjoy a beet now and then. A red beet. Turnips, too.” Daphne continued to identify her vegetable preferences. Martin consumed the contents of his plate, nodding occasionally. He never cared much for vegetables, or at least the discussion of them. He thought they represented themselves rather well without the interference of language. His eye followed their waitress. What did she think about carrots, he wondered. “But corn — I'm talking about regular corn now, not Indian — corn I'm rather fond of. Not creamed corn. Corn on the cob, fresh corn.” Martin stuck his fork into Daphne's pork chop and removed it to his own plate. “I love it when it's drowned in butter.” “You don't say,” he said, chewing. Would storytelling in business help your organisation?