Writing a scene that hops across multiple locations can be a thrilling challenge. It’s like being a world traveler from the comfort of your writing desk.
Here’s how to write a scene with multiple locations:
Write a scene with multiple locations by establishing a central anchor point, using sensory details to transition between environments, and maintaining a consistent narrative flow. Introduce local guides, adapt tone to settings, and link locations thematically for a cohesive experience.
Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to make your scenes leap from one place to another with ease and excitement.
What Is a Scene With Multiple Locations (And Why Write One)?
A scene with multiple locations is a narrative segment where the action moves across different settings.
It’s a cinematic montage in words.
But why bother with such complexity?
Well, it’s about dynamism and breadth. These scenes can show a character’s journey, the passage of time, or parallel events happening in different places.
They add a layer of richness to your story, making the world you’ve created feel vast and alive.
Think of it as painting with a broader brush, giving your readers a panoramic view of your story’s universe.
Types of Scenes With Multiple Locations
Scenes with multiple locations come in various flavors, each serving a unique purpose in storytelling.
Here’s a list of seven common types:
- The Chase Sequence – This is action-packed, moving rapidly from one locale to another as characters pursue or escape.
- The Montage – Here, you might show snippets of different places to indicate the passage of time or a character’s emotional journey.
- Parallel Action – This type cuts between different locations where events unfold simultaneously, often building suspense.
- Flashbacks/Forwards – These scenes jump in time, taking the reader from the present to the past or future, often revealing crucial plot points.
- Cross-Cultural Juxtaposition – Scenes that move between vastly different cultural settings, highlighting contrasts and similarities.
- Dream Sequences – These can transport the reader to various surreal or symbolic locations, reflecting the character’s inner psyche.
- Global Quests – Typical in adventure stories where characters travel to multiple locations in search of something.
17 Best Tips for Writing a Scene With Multiple Locations
The simple act of moving from one location to another can unfold layers of a character’s story, revealing hidden depths.
Let’s go over the best tips for how to write a scene with multiple locations.
1. The Eiffel Elevator – Establish a Central Anchor Point
Start by establishing a ‘home base’ location, like the Eiffel Tower in a whirlwind tour of Paris.
This anchor point grounds your readers, giving them a reference point to return to as the scene shifts.
It’s crucial in maintaining continuity and avoiding disorientation.
Example: Imagine a story set in a magical version of Paris. Your protagonist starts at a café near the Eiffel Tower, then whisks away to a sorcerer’s shop in Montmartre, but references the Tower’s view at each location, creating a cohesive thread through the scenes.
2. The Sahara Shift – Use Environmental Transitions
Transition between locations by focusing on the environment.
Like stepping from the scorching Sahara to a cool oasis, use sensory details to contrast settings.
This method creates a smooth flow, making the location change feel natural and easy to follow.
Example: Your character might leave the bustling, noisy city streets, stepping into the tranquility of a secluded park. Describe the sudden hush, the rustle of leaves, and the scent of grass, transporting the reader smoothly to this new setting.
3. The Venetian Vignette – Frame Each Location Uniquely
Treat each location as a distinct vignette, like a unique scene in a Venetian play.
This approach involves focusing on what makes each location special.
Highlight its unique characteristics to give every setting its moment in the spotlight.
Example: In a spy thriller, the protagonist might dash from a rainy London street to a sunny Roman piazza. Each location is painted vividly – the gloom and dampness of London contrasted with Rome’s warmth and the aroma of fresh espresso.
4. The Amazonian Arrow – Create a Directional Flow
Ensure your scene flows in a clear direction, like following the course of the Amazon River.
Avoid jumping back and forth randomly between locations. Instead, create a logical sequence that guides the reader smoothly from one place to the next.
Example: In an adventure novel, the hero might start in a bustling marketplace, move through narrow alleyways, and finally arrive at a hidden temple. The progression feels natural, like following a treasure map.
5. The Himalayan Harmony – Balance Descriptions Evenly
Like finding equilibrium on a Himalayan peak, balance the level of detail across locations.
Don’t lavish too much description on one and skimp on another.
This balance helps maintain pacing and keeps the reader equally engaged with each setting.
Example: If your scene moves from a detailed, vibrant carnival to a stark, quiet library, give each the same level of descriptive attention. Describe the carnival’s colors and sounds, then the library’s solemnity and the whisper of turning pages.
6. The Polynesian Path – Link Locations Thematically
Connect your locations with a thematic thread, like islands linked by a Polynesian path.
This approach involves finding a common theme or element in each location and weaving it through the narrative.
It adds depth and creates a more cohesive experience for the reader.
Example: In a story exploring themes of freedom, each location can reflect this concept differently. A bustling city market represents economic freedom, a remote mountain village illustrates freedom from modern constraints, and a seaside town shows freedom through travel and exploration.
7. The Andean Altitude – Elevate Emotions with Each Location
Just like climbing the Andes, elevate emotions with each new setting.
Use the unique atmosphere of each location to intensify your character’s feelings and experiences.
This method ensures that the location changes contribute to character development.
Example: A character might start feeling claustrophobic and anxious in a crowded urban setting, then become contemplative and serene in a quiet forest, and finally feel liberated and joyful on a high mountain peak.
The changing landscapes mirror their emotional journey.
8. The Grecian Guide – Introduce Local Guides
Incorporate local guides into your scenes, much like a knowledgeable guide in ancient Greece.
These characters can provide insights into the new location, adding depth and authenticity.
They also serve as a natural way to introduce information about the setting.
Example: A character visiting Athens might be shown around by a local historian, who not only guides them through the city but also provides historical context and cultural anecdotes, enriching the scene and deepening the reader’s engagement.
9. The Nile Narrative – Streamline with a Continuous Plot
Keep the plot flowing smoothly, like the Nile River.
Ensure that the movement between locations is driven by the plot, not just for the sake of change.
Each location should serve a purpose in advancing the story.
Example: In a mystery novel, the detective might follow clues from a bustling marketplace to a quiet suburb and then to a noisy train station. Each location change is a step closer to solving the mystery, keeping the plot cohesive.
10. The Kyoto Connection – Link Locations with a Character
Use a character as the connecting thread, similar to a traveler exploring Kyoto’s varied districts.
This character’s journey and experiences in different settings can provide a consistent perspective and help the reader navigate the changes.
Example: A journalist character might travel from a war-torn region to a peaceful rural area and then to a hectic newsroom.
Their personal reactions and adaptations to each setting provide continuity and relatability for the reader.
11. The Roman Rhythm – Maintain a Consistent Pace
Ensure a consistent rhythm in your scene transitions, like the steady march of Roman legions.
Avoid jarring the reader with abrupt changes.
A steady pace in shifting locations ensures a smooth reading experience.
Example: In an action-adventure story, balance fast-paced action sequences with slower, more introspective moments, regardless of the location. This maintains a rhythmic flow that keeps the reader engaged without overwhelming them.
12. The Antarctic Anchor – Use Objects or Symbols as Anchors
Employ objects or symbols as anchors through the scene transitions, similar to how explorers use flags to mark their journey in Antarctica.
This could be a recurring motif or a physical object that appears in each location.
Example: A locket passed down through generations could appear in various settings – a bustling city, a quiet village, a lonely mountaintop. Its presence in each location creates a sense of continuity and connection.
13. The Caribbean Contrast – Use Contrasting Settings to Highlight Change
Highlight change and development by contrasting settings, like the diverse islands of the Caribbean.
Use the stark differences between locations to underscore character growth or plot developments.
Example: A character might move from a chaotic urban environment to a serene rural setting. The contrast emphasizes their growth from a life of complexity to one of simplicity and peace.
14. The Silk Road Synthesis – Blend Cultural Elements
Blend cultural elements from each location seamlessly, like the diverse influences along the Silk Road.
This creates a rich, multicultural tapestry that enhances the narrative’s depth and authenticity.
Example: In a historical novel, characters might travel from China through Central Asia to Europe, encountering different cultures, languages, and customs. The blend of these elements enriches the story and adds layers of complexity.
15. The Serengeti Strategy – Adapt Tone to Setting
Adapt the tone of your writing to match each setting, similar to how animals adapt to different environments in the Serengeti.
This helps create an immersive experience for the reader, making each location feel authentic and alive.
Example: In a thriller, the tone might be tense and fast-paced in a crowded city scene, shift to cautious and suspenseful in a dark forest, and become relaxed and open in a peaceful seaside town.
16. The Amazonian Ambiance – Use Sensory Details
Engage all the senses to bring each location to life, like the rich sensory experience of the Amazon rainforest.
Describe not just what the characters see, but also what they hear, smell, taste, and feel. This creates a vivid, immersive world for the reader.
Example: In a romantic novel, a character might experience the bustling sounds and spicy aromas of a street market, the soft touch and sweet scent of flowers in a garden, and the salty taste and cool breeze of the ocean.
17. The Trans-Siberian Transition – Use Movement as a Narrative Tool
Finally, use the act of moving between locations as a narrative tool, akin to a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway.
This movement can reflect the character’s inner journey or the progression of the plot.
Example: In an epic adventure, the protagonist’s journey from the steppes of Mongolia to the heart of Moscow can mirror their internal journey from naivety to wisdom. Each location change marks a stage in their personal growth and the unfolding of the story.
How to Write a Scene With Multiple Locations in a Screenplay
Crafting scenes with multiple locations in a screenplay requires not just creativity, but also clarity in formatting.
This ensures that the director, actors, and crew can easily follow the flow of the story.
Let’s explore how you can format these complex scenes effectively.
The “INTERCUT” format is useful for scenes where two actions occur simultaneously in different locations.
Instead of constantly writing slug lines for each location, you begin with “INTERCUT BETWEEN” and the two locations.
INT. OFFICE – DAY
John sits, dialing his phone.
EXT. BEACH – SAME TIME
Mary lounges by the sea, her phone ringing.
INTERCUT BETWEEN OFFICE AND BEACH
John and Mary converse, switching back and forth between the two settings.
Series of Shots
This is ideal for scenes requiring a rapid succession of short clips across various locations.
It’s labeled as “SERIES OF SHOTS” followed by brief descriptions of each shot.
SERIES OF SHOTS:
- A train speeding through the countryside.
- A bustling city street.
- A quiet suburban neighborhood.
Similar to a series of shots, a montage covers actions or images from different locations.
Use “BEGIN MONTAGE” and “END MONTAGE” to frame these sequences.
- Sarah packing her bags in her bedroom.
- Sarah hailing a cab in the city.
- Sarah arriving at the airport.
Slug Lines for Each Location
For scenes with longer sequences in each location, use separate slug lines.
This traditional method clearly demarcates each change of setting.
EXT. MOUNTAIN TRAIL – DAY
Rick hikes, looking determined.
INT. CABIN – DAY
Emily looks at a map, planning the route.
EXT. RIVER – DAY
Rick crosses a precarious bridge.
Mini-slugs are short, informal slug lines used for quick shifts within a larger scene or setting.
They’re less formal and don’t include a time of day.
Mike watches TV, uninterested.
Linda prepares dinner, humming to herself.
BACK TO LIVING ROOM
Mike’s phone rings. He answers.
Here is a good video about how to write a multi-location scene in your screenplay:
How to Write a Scene Where Characters Move from Room to Room
Writing scenes where characters move from room to room can be challenging, as it requires a seamless transition while maintaining the story’s flow.
This movement should feel natural and contribute to the development of the scene.
Here’s how to handle such transitions effectively:
Use Descriptive Transitions
Focus on the journey between rooms, not just the rooms themselves.
Describe the character’s movement and their interaction with the environment. This adds depth and keeps the reader engaged.
Example: John left the cluttered chaos of his office, his steps echoing down the dimly lit hallway. He paused briefly, noting the contrast as he entered the bright, sunlit kitchen.
Let the character’s thoughts and observations lead the transition.
Their internal monologue can provide insight into their feelings about each space.
Example: As Sarah moved from the quiet sanctuary of her library to the lively, noisy living room, she braced herself for the shift in energy, reminiscing about the calm she was leaving behind.
Ensure that the character’s movement has a purpose related to the plot or character development.
This keeps the transitions meaningful and integral to the story.
Example: Michael hurried from the bedroom to the study, each room revealing a piece of the puzzle – a forgotten letter on the bed, a photograph on the desk.
Use sensory details to differentiate between rooms.
Describe the sights, sounds, smells, and textures unique to each space
Example: Emma could smell the lingering scent of pine as she left the freshly cleaned bathroom, entering the warmth and spice-filled aroma of the bustling kitchen.
Dialogue as a Transition Tool
Use conversations to naturally lead characters from one room to another.
This can provide a smooth transition while advancing the plot.
Example: “Let’s continue this in my study,” said George, leading the way from the echoing hall into the more intimate, book-lined room.
Physical and Emotional Contrast
Highlight the physical and emotional contrasts between rooms to underscore character development or thematic elements.
Example: Crossing from the cold, austere guest room to his own warm, familiar bedroom, Jack felt a wave of relief and a sense of returning to himself.
Foreshadowing and Symbolism
Use the movement between rooms to foreshadow events or symbolize changes in the character’s journey.
Example: As Lara moved from the bright, open living room into the dark, cluttered attic, it felt like stepping into a forgotten part of her own mind, full of secrets yet to be uncovered.
Final Thoughts: How to Write a Scene With Multiple Locations
The journey from place to place is a microcosm of the character’s larger journey, each space a metaphor for a different facet of their experience.
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