Karen S. Wiesner: Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 3

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

Three-Dimensional Writing, Part 3

Based on Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing (formerly titled Bring Your Fiction to Life {Crafting Three-Dimensional Stories with Depth and Complexity})

This is the final of three posts dealing with three-dimensional fiction writing.

The word “three-dimensional” is not only easy to define as solid, realistic, rounded and lifelike, even living, but it also translates well into the craft of writing. Most writers know what is not three-dimensional writing. Simple words convey the concept: flat, cardboard, paper doll, unrealistic, unremarkable, un- or underdeveloped, dead. Writing that is three-dimensional seems to have length (the foundation of a story), width (structure), and depth (fully-fleshed-out characters, plots and settings rooted in layers of rich, textured scenes). Three-dimensional writing is what allows a reader to step through the pages of a book and enter the world created, where plot and characters are in that glorious, realistic realm that starts with little more than a line and progresses into shape and finally represents solid form. Once three-dimensionality is grasped, all things are possible: direction, motion, focus, vivid color, texture, harmony, variety in which change is attainable and value becomes concrete. But how do we translate dimensional foundations into the opening and resolution scenes we’ve written along with into the all-important bridge scenes between? That’s where three-dimensional writing gets sketchy and needs an examination of step-by-step technique. We'll explore all of these in detail in here and also provide a checklist that can be used to ensure depth and dimension as we revise.

Anatomy of a Three-Dimensional Scene

To understand what we need to add the necessary depth and dimension and fully develop each and every scene in a book, let’s explore the kinds of scenes each story needs.

There are three types of scenes: Opening, Bridge and Resolution. Opening and resolution scenes are the crucial support structures that bridge scenes are built between. Each must be well constructed with purpose, strong enough to carry the loads required of them.

Opening scenes introduce characters, plots, and settings, and where the story is going. Carefully consider and craft your hook—the opening line of your book. This pivotal sentence should either contain or suggest the end of your story. That first line should resonate throughout the book, parallel and/or reflect the resolution, and maybe even tie into the final sentence. Your opening scenes always introduce an "implicit promise" to the reader. If you don’t deliver what you've promised within your first scene by the time your story ends, you’ve stolen time, money, and even reader emotions, all with a careless shrug of purposeful neglect. Writers can take more time unpacking opening scenes than they can anywhere else in the story. If the reader doesn’t have a strong desire to invest emotionally in the characters from the very first scenes, he won't care what happens next, let alone how everything is resolved. The only difference between opening, bridge and resolution scenes is that the reader enters an opening scene knowing absolutely nothing thus far. New locations must be discovered, detailed and described in-depth at the opening of a story or when they're first introduced, but familiar locations don't require such an elaborate setup after the initial visit.

In the back of your mind, at every point in the storytelling, should be the fact that the end of your story is where you're going. You're continuously building toward the wrap-up. Your direction is crucial because, your story beginning should resonate throughout the rest of the book. It should match up with the resolution and may even tie into the finalsentence. The end grounds and justifies the whole of the story. How your story ends is essentially a reward to your reader for taking the journey with you. All loose ends must be tied up adequately in your story. If the author is never going to answer a nagging question, why invest anything, especially time and passion, in the story? Leaving a story thread dangling isn’t something an author can do without making readers feel cheated, and rightly so. All story endings must be logical, with a sense of inevitability. It's the final, not always the first, impression that will bear lasting judgment. The reader should feel that every minute of his time in your world—putting off, giving up, or altogether missing other things—was well spent. While it's been said the opening sentence can make or break the book, the ending is what makes or breaks the author. Have you ever finished a story and immediately sought out everything else by that author? If that's not your ultimate goal as an author, I don't know what is. The only difference between opening, bridge and resolution scenes is that your resolution scenes are where you'll resolve all conflicts from the viewpoint of a reader who expects you to keep the promise you made when you started the story.

Hands down, the middle bridge scenes are the trickiest to develop because the majority of your story unfolds within them, and that has to happen with ideal pacing. Every bridge scene should show a realistic, vivid picture of the story landscape within the first few paragraphs and as succinctly as possiblesuch that the reader can step into it right alongside the main character and feel informed and eager for the next plot development. Until the scene is established sufficiently, the reader can’t enter, let alone be transported there without unfortunate repercussions. The secret to writing three-dimensional bridge scenes is that all of these scenes must set up before they can set outto tell their crucial piece of the story. Each bridge scene has to meet three basic requirements:

1.      Establish the three-dimensional characters (especially the POV character) you worked so hard to develop.

2.      Advance the plot. Be clear on every character’s agenda in a scene, and the agendas in conflict. If the scene doesn't have a clear purpose in progressing the story, it needs to be questioned. Having three dimensions of character, plot, and setting are crucial to advancing a story through the middle scenes.

3.      Construct the setting. Readers must be led through the story world step by step with information that first anchors, then orients, and finally allows them to move forward with a sense of anticipation. Scenes can't really function without time and place being indicated early (and concisely) enough so your reader doesn’t become lost, looking to establish where he is, was, and where he's going.

Ensuring that all of these requirements are accomplished in each scene in a creative, non-info-dump way isn’t for the faint of heart, and one that might demand a lot of revision. But the harder readers have to work to orient themselves, the easier it becomes to set down the book, possibly for good.

The three basics to scene setup we established above aren't all that's needed, either. The secret to writing three-dimensional bridge scenes is that all must set up before they can set out to tell their crucial piece of the story. In real life, a bridge has two sides and both must be firmly anchored to something tangible in order to successfully function. But your goal isn't simply to get your characters from Point A to Point B. Scenes have to connect, join, fuse, and be secured in such an intrinsic way that they flow from start to finish, one to the next, in a natural progression. The secret to providing scenes that anchor and orient readers, and lead them with purpose throughout your story landscape, always with a whisper of what's to come, is twofold:

1.      Connect the bridge from one scene to the next seamlessly.You can use this method for all the scenes in your book, because the technique is the same from one to the next. The only difference is that in the very first scene of the book (the opening scene), you’re starting from the viewpoint of the reader knowing nothing about what came before—hence the need for more room and clever acts of brevity that introduce the story elements of character, plot, and setting. There's nothing worse than dropping a reader in the middle of nowhere in the dark of night and he isn't given enough details to figure out where he is, what's going on, and who this character running ahead of him in the darkness is. In the same way that the first step in using a microscope is to focus the lens, we need to provide the focus for characters, settings and plots in our opening scenes.

2.      Extend the bridge into the next scene. What you're doing here is foreshadowing future events (the future dimension we discussed earlier). Victoria Lynn Schmidt describes this as "making the reader wonder what could possibly happen next, without making [him] incredulous after it happens." Obviously extending the bridge toward the next scene won’t be done in the opening paragraphs but closer to the end of the scene. As we said about an opening scene, the difference with resolution scenes is that they should tie up all the story threads while leaving a satisfactory sense of finality rather than making the reader question what happens next.

Doing these two things is something that takes a lot of practice to master, since you don’t want an opening with a recap like “Last time in our story…” let alone a transitional punch in the face from recap to the current story, such as: “And that brings us to the present…” Nor do you want to leave your reader hanging, wondering if your story is actually going anywhere. The reader needs to dread/hope about future events, or he won't care to keep reading. Unfortunately, there is no magical formula that translates the five W's into wonderfully written prose, since you definitely don’t want each scene to be set up exactly like the last.

Preparation (and a worksheet) should do the trick of ensuring we get all of this sketched out early so, when it comes time to revise the story, we produce prose with an efficiency of words that's creative and innovate in transporting informed, eager readers into full-fledged dimensionality of story. A simple three-dimensional scene checklist that covers the most crucial aspects would include the following:

Depth & Dimension Scene Revision Checklist

Connecting the Bridge to this Scene from the Last Scene (When):(Establish the "when" by alluding to what's happened previously. In bridge scenes, try to do this without becoming repetitive. You want to get readers up to speed for what's about to happen in this scene. For bridge scenes, it's crucial you give a definable sense of how much time has passed since this point-of-view character's last scene)



·         Who is the point-of-view character in this scene? (Only one point-of-view character per scene, and this is the only character you can get inside the head of for this scene.)

·         What other characters are in this scene when it opens? (These are the only ones you need to concern yourself with in the set-up.)


·         Establish what the main and other characters listed in the last section are doing physically at the time the scene opens.


·         Where are the main and other characters in the scene? Establish their location(s) in a broad sense as well as specifically.


·         What's going on in this scene in the overall unfolding of the story?

Extending the Bridge toward the Next Scene: (This will be done closer to the end of each bridge scene. Give the reader some light and anticipation for the path ahead.)

The good news is, the more you practice these techniques and identify them in the published books you read, the better your chances of mastering the fundamentals. If you have trouble doing this with your own work, try out the checklist using some of your favorite published novels.

Start by coming into each project with the necessary preparation of setting up before you set out. From there, you can translate each item on the checklist into well setup, three-dimensional scenes. All three of these steps will ensure that you’re creating a story so breathtaking it allows readers to eagerly enter the picture you’ve painted right alongside the main characters.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Three-Dimensional Fiction Writing

Volume 5 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection



Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:




Older Post Newer Post