Reunion scenes hold a special place in storytelling. They serve as emotional climaxes, moments of revelation, or plot pivots.
Here is how to write reunion scenes your readers will love:
Write reunion scenes by exploring character emotions, choosing a significant setting, employing authentic dialogue, and tapping into past conflicts. Use anticipation, reflect growth, and ensure genuine character reactions. Reunions can be brief moments or extended scenes.
In this guide, you’ll discover the nuances and intricacies of how to write reunion scenes.
What Are Reunion Scenes?
Reunion scenes are segments in a story where characters who’ve been separated—either by physical distance, time, misunderstandings, or conflicts—come together once again.
These moments are often charged with emotion, revealing deep-seated feelings, reconciliations, and insights.
They offer readers or viewers a payoff for emotional investments, and often they can be the most remembered scenes in any story.
From my personal experience, writing a reunion scene is akin to revisiting old memories and reviving long-lost emotions.
Types of Reunion Scenes
There is more than one type of reunion scene.
Choosing the right type of scene is paramount to the effectiveness of the scene in your story.
Types of reunion scenes:
- Joyful Reunions — These are the heartwarming moments when characters meet after overcoming adversity, symbolizing triumph and happiness.
- Painful Reunions — Encounters filled with regret, guilt, or sadness, usually following betrayals or long separations.
- Revelatory Reunions — When the meeting of characters reveals a significant secret or truth.
- Romantic Reunions — Reconnections of lovers, showcasing passion, love, and sometimes unresolved tension.
- Reconciliatory Reunions — Characters burying the hatchet after conflicts or misunderstandings.
- Ghostly Reunions — Encounters with the dead or supernatural entities from a character’s past.
- Flashback Reunions — Reunions shown in a flashback, offering a deeper understanding of present circumstances.
- Antagonistic Reunions — When protagonists and antagonists face each other after a significant amount of time.
- Surprise Reunions — Unexpected encounters that take the story (and sometimes the characters) by surprise.
- Bittersweet Reunions — Meetings laced with both happiness and sorrow, often due to impending departures or unresolved matters.
Let’s say, for instance, in a wartime drama, two childhood friends find themselves on opposite sides of the battle.
Their eventual face-to-face encounter, filled with mixed feelings of allegiance and friendship, would be an example of an Antagonistic Reunion.
Tip #1: Understand the Emotional Weight
When writing reunion scenes, it’s imperative to grasp the emotional weight behind the reunion.
What have the characters been through during their separation? How has it changed them?
If two lovers separated due to external circumstances and reunite years later, their reunion will carry the weight of lost time, unfulfilled desires, and the evolution of their individual lives during the separation.
Example: Think of Elizabeth and Darcy in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Their reunion is charged with misunderstandings, evolving feelings, and societal pressures, making it profoundly emotional and transformative.
Tip #2: Set the Scene
The backdrop of your reunion scene can enhance its impact.
Whether it’s a serene beach, a bustling train station, or the ruins of a war-torn city, your setting can amplify the emotions at play.
In my personal writing, I’ve found that settings often act as silent characters, adding layers to the scene.
They can evoke nostalgia, mirror characters’ emotions, or contrast with the emotions of the reunion.
Example: Imagine two friends reuniting after years, not in a busy cafe, but in their old childhood treehouse. The setting evokes shared memories, enhancing the depth of their reconnection.
Tip #3: Use Dialogue to Convey Depth
Reunion scenes are ripe for powerful dialogue.
The words exchanged should resonate with the weight of the moment, highlighting past conflicts, shared experiences, or new revelations.
Dialogue can either make or break a reunion scene.
It’s important to stay true to the characters’ voices while still conveying the magnitude of the moment.
Example: In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, when Harry is reunited with his godfather Sirius Black in “The Order of the Phoenix,” their dialogue is filled with warmth, concern, and the urgency of their current predicament, making the reunion both touching and plot-driven.
Tip #4: Integrate Non-verbal Communication
While words are powerful, silence can sometimes speak even louder.
A tearful glance, a hesitant touch, or a choked back sob can convey volumes.
Let your characters’ body language, facial expressions, and gestures add layers to the reunion.
I’ve often found that the most poignant moments in my writing come from what’s left unsaid, allowing readers to fill in the gaps with their own emotions and interpretations.
Example: Think of the silent, tear-filled reunion between Simba and Nala in The Lion King. Their eyes and embrace convey the joy, relief, and love of their reunion, with little need for words.
Tip #5: Incorporate Flashbacks or Memories
Weaving in past memories or flashbacks can provide context, reminding the audience of the relationship’s depth and what’s at stake in the reunion.
Flashbacks can serve as powerful juxtaposition tools.
They can contrast the past and present and adding a layer of nostalgia or regret to the scene.
Example: In Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook, the flashbacks of Noah and Allie’s love story give depth to their present-day reunion, making it all the more heart-wrenching.
Sidenote: The Notebook is one of my favorite examples of a gut-wrenching story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it years ago!
Tip #6: Pay Attention to Pacing
A reunion scene shouldn’t feel rushed.
Allow the moment to breathe, letting the emotions and reactions of the characters unfold organically.
Conversely, if the reunion is unexpected or jarring, a faster pace might serve better.
In my narratives, I often play with pacing to either draw out tension or underscore the shock value of a reunion.
Example: In Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, when Edward Ferrars visits Elinor Dashwood after a long absence, the slow pacing accentuates the awkwardness and tension, building anticipation for Edward’s revelation.
Tip #7: Consider External Obstacles
Sometimes, the most gripping reunions are those that almost don’t happen due to external forces or obstacles.
These can heighten tension and make the eventual reunion even more satisfying.
In some of my writing, I’ve used storms, antagonists, or societal norms as barriers to test the determination of the characters to reunite.
Example: In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus faces numerous obstacles—monsters, gods, and the sea itself—before he can reunite with his wife, Penelope, making their eventual reunion epic.
Tip #8: Address Past Conflicts
If characters parted ways due to a conflict, it’s crucial to address it during their reunion.
This can be a platform for growth, forgiveness, or further discord.
Avoiding past conflicts can leave a reunion feeling shallow or incomplete, whereas confronting them provides depth.
Example: In the TV series Friends, when Ross and Rachel reunite, their past misunderstandings and arguments are addressed, paving the way for a more profound connection.
Tip #9: Harness the Power of Anticipation
Building anticipation before a reunion can intensify the moment.
The longer the characters (and the readers) have to wait, the more impactful the reunion becomes.
The moments leading up to the reunion often serve as a crescendo, amplifying emotions and solidifying the significance of the reunion.
Example: In Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the anticipation built over Frodo and Sam’s separation from the rest of the Fellowship makes their eventual reunion all the more heartfelt and joyous.
Tip #10: Show Growth or Change
Time apart often leads to personal growth or change.
Showcasing this evolution can add complexity to the reunion.
Whether the change is physical, emotional, or ideological, it can redefine relationships and the narrative.
I often use reunions to spotlight how characters have evolved, underscoring their journeys and redefining their relationships.
Example: In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, Dr. Manette’s reunion with his daughter Lucie after years of wrongful imprisonment not only highlights the time lost but showcases the mental and emotional changes he has undergone.
Tip #11: Embrace Silence
Sometimes, the most profound reunions are marked by silent acknowledgment rather than grand gestures or verbose declarations.
Silence can speak of understanding, shared grief, or deep connection.
Allowing characters a moment of silent communion can resonate deeply with readers, emphasizing the bond they share.
Example: In the movie Cast Away, when Chuck (played by Tom Hanks) reunites with his friend Stan, their silent embrace conveys more than words ever could, reflecting their shared pain and relief.
Tip #12: Play with Expectations
Subverting expectations can make reunions more memorable.
Whether it’s an unexpected reaction, an unforeseen obstacle, or a twist in the relationship, playing against the norm can captivate the audience.
Introducing unexpected elements into your reunion scenes to keep readers on their toes.
Example: At the grand masquerade ball, where whispers of a long-lost prince’s return prevailed, all eyes turned to the grand staircase when an announcement was made. Every guest expected a charismatic young man, draped in royal finery.
However, to their astonishment, a young woman descended, her mask only partially concealing a face many vaguely remembered from childhood portraits. With grace, she declared herself as the presumed-lost royal, having adopted a different identity abroad. The murmurs of the crowd reflected their surprised realization: they had always expected a prince, but were now introduced to a princess who had come to reclaim her throne.
Tip #13: Highlight the Aftermath
The immediate aftermath of a reunion can be as telling as the reunion itself.
It can show the consequences, positive or negative, and set the tone for future interactions.
When I craft my stories, I like to emphasize the ripple effects of a reunion, illustrating its significance in the larger narrative.
Example: In Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, after the lovers secretly reunite and marry, the subsequent events lead to feuds, misunderstandings, and ultimately tragedy, emphasizing the weight of their reunion.
Tip #14: Embrace the Unspoken
While clear communication is key in real-life relationships, in fiction, the unspoken words, hidden feelings, or suppressed desires can amplify tension in a reunion scene.
Play with what characters choose to withhold for subtext and subtlety.
Example: Amidst the bustling marketplace, filled with vibrant stalls and chattering townsfolk, Lila spotted Adrian across the square. Years had passed since their bitter parting, and while many words remained unsaid between them, the tension in the air was palpable.
Tip #15: Inject Symbolism
Using symbols—objects, settings, or motifs—can provide a deeper layer of meaning to the reunion, anchoring it in the broader context of the story.
Throughout my writing journey, I’ve employed symbols to emphasize the underlying emotions or themes of a reunion.
And, hopefully, to make the scene more unforgettable.
Example: The stopped clock symbolized their paused relationship, the halted moments, and lost time. By winding the clock and setting it in motion again, they were not just restoring an old city monument, but also symbolically giving their relationship a chance to move forward, cherishing their shared history and looking toward the future.
Tip #16: Contrast with Previous Interactions
By contrasting a reunion with prior interactions between characters, you can spotlight the growth, changes, or regression in their relationship.
I’ve found that this juxtaposition not only showcases character development but also dramatizes the weight of the reunion.
Example: In Jane Austen’s Emma, the reunion between Emma and Mr. Knightley is starkly different from their earlier interactions. Their newfound understanding and mutual confession of love contrast with their prior friendly banter and misunderstandings.
Tip #17: Incorporate External Reactions
The reactions of bystanders or other characters can further articulate the significance of the reunion.
Their shock, joy, or disapproval can offer a fresh perspective on the main characters’ relationship.
Integrating external reactions can provide a fuller, more rounded depiction of the reunion’s impact.
Example: In The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien, the hobbits’ epic return to the Shire is marked not just by their personal satisfaction but also by the awe and admiration of their fellow Hobbits, underscoring the enormity of their journey.
Tip #18: Use Foreshadowing
Hinting at a reunion earlier in the story can heighten anticipation.
By dropping subtle clues or directly foreshadowing the event, you prepare readers for an emotional payoff.
Throughout my stories, foreshadowing has served as a tool to guide readers’ expectations and enhance their engagement.
Example: In Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, the paths of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert continually cross. The foreshadowing of their eventual confrontations amplifies the tension and significance of each reunion.
Tip #19: Prioritize Authenticity
Ensure the reunion fits the characters and the storyline. A reunion for the sake of drama can feel forced.
Prioritize genuine emotions and situations that resonate with the story’s trajectory.
Readers (those crafty fellows) can sense inauthentic moments. Keep reunions genuine to maximize their impact.
Example: In Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, the reunions between the characters are subtle, quiet, and deeply emotional, aligning with the novel’s introspective and melancholic tone.
Tip #20: Introduce New Dynamics
A reunion can be a platform to introduce new relationship dynamics, challenges, or plot points, propelling the story forward.
You can use reunions as pivot points, marking shifts in character relationships and story direction.
Example: In J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, when Harry reunites with his godfather Sirius in the Prisoner of Azkaban, it introduces a new familial bond and shifts the dynamics of Harry’s support system.
Tip #21: End with a Promise or Threat
Leaving a hint of what’s to come—whether it’s a promise of further interactions or an impending threat—can keep readers invested post-reunion.
Consider ending reunion scenes with a note of anticipation to pull readers along in your story.
An exception might be a stand-alone novel that ends with a reunion.
But if we’re talking series (or even possible sequels), you might do well to open a loop of curiosity about what is to come next in your story.
Example: In George R.R. Martin’s A Dance with Dragons, Daenerys Targaryen’s reunion with Drogon in the fighting pits not only highlights her connection with her dragon but also foreshadows the pivotal role they will play together.
How to Write a Great Reunion Scene
You write a great reunion scene much the same way that you write any other type of great scene.
Take the basic elements of any scene — characters, setting, conflict — and push them to their narrative limits.
In my experience as both a write and reader, it comes down to these basics plus a heaping helping of emotion.
Here is a great video that shows you how to write a great scene (including reunion scenes):
30 Words for Writing Reunion Scenes
You don’t need to search for the perfect word for your reunion scene when you have this list.
Reunion scene words:
30 Phrases for Writing Reunion Scenes
Here are some of the best phrases to weave into your reunion scenes:
- Tears of recognition
- Embracing lost time
- Eyes filled with memories
- Long-awaited reunion
- Hearts reconnected at last
- Old wounds resurfacing
- A meeting of changed souls
- Laughter echoing from the past
- Hands entwined after ages
- Lingering scent of nostalgia
- Mending broken bonds
- Echoes of past laughter
- Shadows of former selves
- A familiar yet changed face
- Whispered apologies and confessions
- Warmth of a remembered touch
- Renewed promises under old stars
- Shared silences speaking volumes
- A dance of rekindled emotions
- Forgotten stories reborn
- Reliving moments in a glance
- Journey back to each other
- Rebuilding bridges once burned
- An embrace that heals
- Words left unsaid, understood
- Treading on old grounds together
- Picking up where they left off
- Shared memories lighting the way
- A chance at a new beginning
- Facing the past, hand in hand
3 Examples of How to Write Reunion Scenes
The way you write reunion scenes in one genre is not neccesary how you would write one in another type of story.
That’s why I want to share three examples of how to write reunion scenes in different genres.
As the train pulled away, leaving behind a cloud of steam, Eleanor spotted a familiar silhouette. Their eyes met, and time seemed to pause. Mark, with his same piercing gaze but lined eyes revealing years of hard-earned wisdom, stood waiting. The crowd around them blurred as they moved towards each other, their past quarrels forgotten. The world melted away as they shared a passionate, lingering kiss, a rekindling of their once lost love.
The dimly lit alley echoed with the distant hum of the city. Detective Warren, gun drawn, edged forward. As he turned a corner, a figure stepped into the muted light — his old partner, James, presumed dead for the past five years. Their reencounter was silent, the weight of betrayal and unresolved mysteries hanging in the air. James’s smirk hinted at secrets yet to be unraveled.
In the heart of the enchanted forest, beneath the ancient willow tree, Elara, the elf queen, waited. A rustle announced Arion’s approach. As the exiled prince stepped into the moonlit clearing, their reunion was charged with magic. With a whispered apology and confession, they combined their powers, merging two of the land’s most potent magical bloodlines, ready to reclaim their realm from the shadows that threatened it.
Final Thoughts: How to Write Reunion Scenes
Crafting a reunion scene is a delicate dance of emotions, memories, and character growth.
Before you go, check out some of the other great blog posts about storytelling on this site.
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