Breakdown of Narrative Scenes. How Removing Filler Scenes Can Streamline Your Story – The Urban Writers

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Cutting the Filler: Scenes to Trim for a Tighter Narrative

by The Urban Writers

Including filler scenes within your story can cloud the vision of what a book portrays, it causes a disconnect between the reader and what the story conveys due to its imposition of a break that disrupts the flow of action with details that don't add to the story.

Filler scenes are essentially redundancies; if they had not been included, the story would have maintained the same meaning and direction. Including these scenes is not a detriment to the narrative. Clutter caused by filler scenes will, however, impact the readability, causing incoherence and a loss of interest for the reader.

The most practical solution for remedying the effect of filler scenes for your reader is to cut the fluff and redundant content that does not serve a purpose regarding what the book is meant to convey.

Cutting content that doesn't contain information considered a part of the story will not cause any change in the direction or meaning of the book. This will essentially only be reducing the word count, which is often a good thing as it clears space for more impactful and substantiative content to be added.

What Are Scenes

Scenes comprise events within a section of a narrative or story; scenes are like mini-stories, each contributing a piece towards the puzzle that is the complete narrative. Scenes are structured much like stories; they contain a beginning that introduces the character and/or conflict, a middle that takes readers through the journey of trying to overcome the conflict, and an end that provides a resolution, although the lack of a resolution at the end of a scene builds tension and often used as a cliffhanger for subsequent scenes.

Each scene takes place during a specified period, within a place/setting, and comprises action and dialogue. The actions and dialogues of character(s) within a scene will give the reader insight into something pertinent to the story.

Understanding what constitutes a scene and how it forms a story should provide insight into the need to have every scene serve a purpose. Even if a scene that doesn't meet the criteria of adding to the story is related to other aspects of the story, it should still be regarded as irrelevant, as it doesn't tell the reader anything that offers insight into the purpose of the story.

Elements of a Scene

The insight that a scene that serves a purpose should provide adds depth to the elements of a narrative. Through actions or dialogue, readers can perceive additional information as they journey through each scene as if they were episodes until the end of the book or finale, by which point the plot would be realized.

The different elements that offer this insight and move a story forward are: 

  • Characterization: The character undergoes a change in belief, emotions, or actions that is noticeably different in the end from what it had been at the start of the scene.
  • Theme: What the story is meant to impart to the reader. These are usually lessons it teaches through the literary elements.
  • Plot: The structure of the story narratives follows a set path with the traditional flow being introductions at the beginning, peak at the midpoint, and descending to a resolution at the end.
  • Setting: The time and place the story is set in. Where and when a scene takes place are vital elements that must be included and a change in location or time usually signifies the start of a new scene.

Removing Filler Scenes

Identifying filler content requires a sufficient amount of knowledge regarding the best practices for writing. Being aware of the elements that should be included when writing a scene automatically means you will know what to exclude.

Not every scene will be written in the same manner, however, there are standard elements that must be included. Action and dialogue, for example, are compulsory as they are how the characters can make contributions and move the story forward.

Once you have been versed in writing scenes, you will develop a sense of awareness that will help in identifying the scenes that can safely be removed without causing unintended alterations to the story.

A filler should not be mistaken for any section that doesn't depict a physical activity. On the contrary, there can also be physical activity included in the writing that will be considered as a filler because its inclusion in the story bears no significance but was included.

What Stays and What Goes

We have established that a scene is structured in the same way that a narrative is; this is in keeping with the layout of a plot where there is a sequence of events that are standard for storytelling.

Let us explore how each of these elements can create the full scene:

Step 1: Set the Scene

This is the expository stage where a description is provided of the setting—time and place—and the character(s) that will appear within the scene. This element may be through the use of action, dialogue, or description.

Step 2: Start the Drama

The incitement to an incident presents a conflict for the character to overcome. This can be a minor or major issue that will introduce a change in normalcy that provides a reason for the scene to progress, as this issue will require a resolution.

Step 3: Adversities Abound

On the character's quest to resolve the initial incident, introducing additional hardships that test their resolve will not only highlight the character but will spark the reader's interest in the outcome. This should be an uphill journey for the character that places everything they hold dear at risk and sets them up for a grand triumph or defeat.

Step 4: Choices

The build-up of conflict will take the character to a dilemma in which they must make a defining choice. Whatever is chosen will result in the defining moment that the other elements of the scene have led to. In true dramatic fashion, the options, though based on the circumstances, will likely be between far right or far left, day or night, up or down; with no option for the middle ground or an amicable or neutral solution.

Step 5: The Peak

All the action and dialogue in the scene will culminate in its climax. The choice that was made when faced with a dilemma will now either result in victory or defeat, triumph or loss. Despite the popularity of feel-good endings, the climax is not meant to end happily ever after. rather, the ending should be the most impactful imaginable that adds to the entertainment value and timelessness.

Step 6: Reflection

Also known as the resolution, after all the ups and downs, this gives the narrative a chance to reflect and come to terms with the state of affairs. This scene usually occurs after the main action has subsided and the dust has cleared.


Deciding the scenes that serve the purpose of the narrative and therefore deserve to remain, may seem like a mountainous task that involves painstaking hours of rewrites and reviews of the different updated guides to ensure the language used is current and approved. Thankfully this task is one that the experts at Dibbly | The Urban Writers are dedicated to mastering. It will, however, become quite simple once you are familiar with the elements of a narrative and understand the literary function of each.


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