Fiction writing tip: When to use a scene break

You must indicate a scene break on your manuscript page when one scene ends and another one begins. To do this, just leave a blank, one-line, horizontal space on the page by hitting the “Return” key twice.

You must insert a scene break whenever:
• The narrative point of view shifts to a different character
• A significant amount of time passes between one scene and the next
• A different set of characters enters the story
• The characters move to a different location

No rules, dashes, or dingbats of any kind should be placed in the white space of a scene break unless the scene ends at the bottom of a page. When that happens insert three asterisks (*), centered on the page, with five spaces between each one, at the bottom of the page or at the top of the next one to alert readers to the break.

Paul Thayer
Thayer Literary Services

Paul Thayer is a full-time professional book editor with more than 35 years of experience. During that time he worked in the trenches of the real world of writers, editors, and publishers. He uses his extensive knowledge to help writers who still have a lot to learn, offering them critiques and line editing of their work.

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