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  • Writer's pictureMegan Mariano

Crafting Scenes for Descriptive Writing: Developing Characters in Narratives



All of us do some sort of narrative writing with our classes whether it's personal narrative or fictional narrative. We all have our methods of brainstorming and they mostly boil down to planning a solid story with strong characters that have to overcome a problem.


One of the things students struggle with most and is developing characters. They can CREATE them very well, but once it gets down to writing, they often fall short on fleshing these characters out.

I've found a good way to help students with that and it's by writing scenes. This strategy comes before they even brainstorm their entire story (although they should know their character's ultimate goal/struggle).


What Comes Before This

So, for my classes specifically, I do this lesson when they are writing realistic fiction stories. When this lesson starts, they've already picked a topic to write about and created their character. However, this lesson is still start of the brainstorming process.


I also did a Characterization unit with them before this unit, to get them in that character mindset. If I had students the year before (I loop), they completed Fantasy Writing with me, which is a great prerequiste (even though they may not remember ha!).


I also do a show not tell lesson in 6th to really get them into the basics of descriptive writing. Lastly, they've either done personal narrative with me in 6th or continuation stories with me.

It's not a necessity to do all of these, but they definitely have to have had solid attempts at narrative and descriptive writing.


The Lesson

It's just a one day lesson before they start really planning out the meat of their story.

  • I start the lesson with showing them this scene from Akeelah and the Bee. After watching it, students jot down, in their notebooks or on a piece of paper with a partner, what they notice about the characters.

  • A discussion takes about how this scene is not the major problem or struggle for Akeelah, but it directly relates to her struggles. Her goal is to win the spelling bee, and this shows how determined she is.

  • It also shows a rival of hers and his struggles, the community she is in and more.

  • Students are then shown the first slide. For whatever story they are writing, they can use these ideas to write their own scenes with their characters.

  • My sample comes my Realistic Fiction Writing Notebook.

  • After brainstorming potential scenes, students can choose a scene to focus on.

  • They then write their scene on the second slide.

  • This scene can be used anywhere in their story when they start finalizing it.




Let's Break it Down More

Once students get into the slides, they will have an option of different scenes to write. Each one of these scenes could be potentially used in their story. I like to have them do this before any major planning because if they can't flesh out one scene with this character, it's probably a non-starter.


If you want to delve into this more, you can use movies for sure. Movies are told through different scenes and not all scenes are directly related to the big climaxes and/or rising actions. Perhaps there is a shared movie experience you can use. Opening scenes are always great to use for this as that usually has a character doing something just typical in their daily lives. (Think, a spy is hunting down a bad guy to show what the main character's strengths are).


Here are the 6 types of scenes I suggest for students to write:

The character could be at home, at school, anywhere. Something could happen that shows how they feel about themselves. For example, they could drop their lunch tray in the cafeteria and be completely embarrassed, trip all over themselves, and start crying; this shows their lack of confidence.

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Put the character in an event of some kind or a place. Perhaps it's the homecoming dance. A buddy of hers is being teased and the character is able to cheer her buddy up immediately after. This shows she is a good friend and strong at helping others.


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Examples: If the character ultimately wants to change the school dress code, have him out at the mall in a "feminine" outfit and getting a reaction. If the character wants to run away from a bad boyfriend, have her texting friends earlier in the story to complain about things he does.


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Example: The character could be in a soccer game; in the game, she rams into other girls, kicks the ball HARD at the goalie, and runs away jumping for joy at her goal. Showing her actions, shows she's aggressive.


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Just putting a character in any type of decision-making situation allows the reader to see what kind of person they are. It could be decisions about anything and the decision they make shows the character's personality.


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This setting could be significant to the plot later. Putting the character in this setting early, doing something unrelated to the overall goal, is a good way to show how a character behaves in specific settings.




Stretch This Out

If you want to get into this more, you can do so many other activities:

Bottom Line

Using scenes instead of focusing on a specific structure for story-writing allows students more flexibility in their writing. This little lesson is all part of my bigger Realistic Fiction Writing Unit.


You can also read about this entire unit by clicking the picture below:



Lastly, you can get this lesson for FREE here:



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2 Comments


Olivia Tomas
Olivia Tomas
2 days ago

An essay is a brief, organized piece of writing that explores a specific topic from the author's perspective. It typically consists of an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Essays are essential in academia for developing writing personal statement service students' analytical and writing abilities. A well-written essay presents a clear thesis statement, logical structure, and evidence to support the arguments. The introduction sets the context, the body paragraphs provide detailed analysis, and the conclusion summarizes the main points. Writing a strong essay requires critical thinking, clear communication, and a systematic approach to presenting ideas coherently and convincingly.

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Sydney York
Sydney York
Nov 24, 2023

In my third grade class, they also struggle with using descriptive details when writing independently. They have great ideas, but getting it down on paper is a struggle. I am definitely going to try some of these tips!

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