How to Write Two Simultaneous Scenes (Explained + Examples)

Sometimes you want to write two scenes that happen at the same time in your story or screenplay.

Here is how to write two simultaneous scenes:

Write simultaneous scenes by ensuring clarity, maintaining complementary pacing, connecting thematically, using dialogue strategically, and sticking to the chosen POV. Also, limit exposition, differentiate locations, repeat motifs, vary scene lengths, and ensure every scene serves the narrative.

In this guide, you’ll learn how to write simultaneous scenes.

What Are Simultaneous Scenes?

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I made this image – How to Write Two Simultaneous scenes

Simultaneous scenes, a dynamic storytelling technique, allow two or more events to unfold at the same time within a narrative.

Instead of presenting a linear sequence where one event follows another (A then B), both A and B occur concurrently, providing readers or viewers with a sense of simultaneous action.

Two narratives, one timeline.

In cinematic terms, think of the iconic scene in The Godfather where the baptism is juxtaposed with a series of murders.

The scenes are separate but happening simultaneously, adding a deliciously dramatic tension.

In novels, this might look like alternating chapters or even alternating paragraphs, showing events unfolding at the same time in different locations.

This method can create tension, draw parallels, or highlight contrasts between the scenes.

Alternative Names:

  • Parallel Scenes — This term suggests that the two or more scenes run alongside each other, offering a simultaneous view of events, often to draw a comparison or contrast.
  • Intercutting — Commonly used in film and television, intercutting involves rapidly switching back and forth between two or more scenes, suggesting they’re happening at the same time.
  • Cross-cutting — This is another term used primarily in film to describe the editing technique of alternating between scenes to show they are occurring simultaneously. It can be used to build suspense or to draw thematic connections between the separate events.
  • Parallel Narratives — This term is broader and might involve entire storylines that run in parallel, not just individual scenes. It can be seen in literature, film, and television, showcasing two or more concurrent story arcs.

The Mechanics of Two Simultaneous Scenes

The key to nailing this technique is pacing and perspective.

Like a chef meticulously timing two dishes to be ready at the exact same moment, a writer must ensure both scenes are unfolding at a complementary pace.

Each scene should be distinct but connected, either thematically or through the action.

Think of it like this.

You’re on a date, and you’re telling a hilarious story (because you’re that charming), but at the same time, there’s a group at the next table plotting a heist.

Both tales are unfolding, and while your date is invested in your story, the potential crime in the background adds a layer of tension.

That’s the magic of simultaneous scenes.

And trust me, nothing says ‘personal experience as a writer’ like eavesdropping on a heist during a date.

For legal reasons, that’s a joke. 😉

Clarity is King (or Queen)

Clarity, dear writers, is the North Star of simultaneous scenes.

In the whirlwind of parallel narratives, your audience mustn’t feel lost. In screenplays, lucid scene headings are your ally.

In novels, you could lean on distinct line breaks, chapter divisions, or typographic variations.

Your aim?

The reader should glide effortlessly from one scene to another, captivated, not confused.

Confusion is the kryptonite of immersion. You want readers or viewers hooked to the drama, not puzzling over logistics.

If they’re expending energy on the “where” and “when,” you might lose them on the “why” and “how.”

Mind Your Pace

Each scene in your narrative has its own rhythm, its own heartbeat.

When choreographing simultaneous scenes, it’s crucial to ensure these heartbeats either synchronize or juxtapose in a way that’s harmonious.

For instance, the frenetic pace of a bank heist might be paralleled by the slow ticking of a clock in another scene.

And while it’s tempting to amp up the pace in both scenes for double the excitement, sometimes contrast is more powerful.

A frantic chase scene juxtaposed with a serene tea ceremony can accentuate the chaos and calm of both.

By doing so, you can draw readers deeper into the emotional whirlpool.

Connect Thematically

Beyond mere temporal alignment, simultaneous scenes should echo each other thematically.

This resonance might manifest as mirrored emotions, paralleled decisions, or shared challenges.

The interplay of themes can elevate the narrative, creating layers of meaning that linger with readers.

Imagine two protagonists: one facing a moral dilemma at a gala, the other navigating a physical maze.

The labyrinthine challenges of both, one mental and the other physical, can be interwoven, making the reader acutely feel the weight of every twist, turn, and decision.

Use Dialogue Wisely

Dialogue is more than just words; it’s a bridge.

In simultaneous scenes, what’s spoken in one can reverberate, counter, or amplify in the other.

A declaration of love in Scene A might resonate more profoundly when set against a backdrop of betrayal in Scene B.

This interplay can create a symphony of emotions, each line adding a note.

Moreover, be mindful of how dialogue can serve as a transition between scenes.

A question posed in one scene can be answered, even if metaphorically, in the other. Such continuities keep the reader anchored while the scenes shift.

Stick to the POV

In the dance of simultaneous scenes, consistency in point of view (POV) is key.

This doesn’t mean you can’t switch between characters, but any shift should be intentional and clear.

If you’re in a character’s head in Scene A, ensure the reader feels grounded in that perspective before spiraling into Scene B’s POV.

POV isn’t just about viewpoint; it’s about voice. Each character perceives and reacts uniquely.

So, even if two scenes unfold in the same location, different POVs can offer contrasting experiences, enriching the narrative fabric.

Limit Exposition

Exposition, while essential, needs to be used judiciously in simultaneous scenes.

There’s a balance to be struck between providing context and maintaining momentum. Lean, impactful exposition that serves the immediate action is the order of the day.

Readers are already juggling two unfolding narratives.

They shouldn’t be bogged down by backstory. Instead, use evocative snippets that illuminate just enough.

Keep the primary focus on the present, dynamic interplay of the two scenes.

Location Matters

Distinct, vivid locations act as anchor points in simultaneous scenes.

As readers or viewers flit between narratives, the setting should offer immediate context.

A rainy alleyway and a sunlit meadow, for instance, provide contrasting backdrops that readers can latch onto instantly.

But it’s not just about geographic diversity; imbue each location with emotional or thematic weight.

A cluttered attic could mirror a character’s cluttered thoughts, while a vast, empty desert might reflect another’s sense of isolation.

The where becomes as significant as the what.

Utilize Repetitive Motifs

Motifs are the spices in the stew of simultaneous scenes.

A recurring element, be it a sound, color, or object, can serve as a thematic thread, weaving the two scenes tighter.

Maybe it’s the haunting refrain of a song, or the repeated sight of a crimson feather.

These motifs become touchstones, guiding the reader between scenes.

Every recurrence adds depth, building anticipation and creating a sense of continuity even amidst the narrative oscillation.

Varied Lengths Can Create Tension

When it comes to scene length, variety is your accomplice.

By juxtaposing a series of rapid-fire, short scenes against a longer, more languid one, you can manipulate the narrative rhythm, and thus, the reader’s heartbeat.

Imagine the suspense of a ticking bomb interspersed with a leisurely conversation about life’s meaning.

The juxtaposition of urgency against introspection can make both scenes more potent, driving home the narrative stakes.

Dive Deep Into Sensory Details

Sensory details are an often-underutilized tool.

In simultaneous scenes, immersing readers in the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and textures can amplify their engagement.

Scene A might be awash with the warm hues of a sunset and the distant murmur of waves, while Scene B throbs with the cacophony of traffic and the acrid bite of smog.

By painting each scene with rich sensory details, you create a multi-dimensional experience.

Readers don’t just observe the scenes; they live them.

Introduce a Catalyst or Disruptor

A catalyst or disruptor can be an event, character, or revelation that shakes up the status quo of both scenes.

This element adds an X-factor, an unpredictability that keeps readers or viewers on their toes.

Maybe it’s an unexpected phone call, a sudden storm, or a stranger with a mysterious message.

By introducing this disruptor, both scenes gain an added layer of tension and intrigue.

The simultaneous unfolding then becomes not just about what’s happening, but also about how this catalyst will ripple

Using Character Perspectives

One of the most profound ways to convey two simultaneous scenes is by toggling between character perspectives.

It’s not just about what’s happening, but who’s observing it.

This approach provides depth and intimacy, making readers feel as if they’re in the shoes (or mind) of each character.


Tom’s Perspective:
The ballroom was alive with chatter. Tom, feeling out of place, adjusted his tie, eyes darting around for a familiar face.

Anna’s Perspective:
From the balcony, Anna watched as Tom fidgeted. She remembered that look from their college days.

See? You’re not just in the room — you’re in their heads. And if you’ve ever wanted to be a mind reader, here’s your chance.

Plus, it’s way less creepy than it sounds.

Formatting Simultaneous Scenes

Utilizing line breaks, italics, or even chapter breaks can give your reader the visual cue they need to jump from one scene to the other.

For example:

Inside the cafe…
John took a sip of his coffee, his eyes scanning the newspaper.

Outside the cafe…
Jane peered through the window, waiting for the right moment.

Now, while this is a simple representation, it illustrates how you can bounce between scenes. It’s like playing ping pong with your reader’s attention – only less sweaty.

Here is a good video about how to write two simultaneous scenes:

YouTube video by the International Screenwriter’s Association – How to Write Two Simultaneous Scenes

3 Examples of Simultaneous Scenes

Here are three examples of how to write simultaneous scenes in different genres and storytelling mediums.

1. Mystery Novel: A Detective’s Deduction and A Crime Unfolding

Scene A: Detective Carter’s Office

Carter sat at his mahogany desk, surrounded by scattered notes and dim lamplight. His fingers drummed on a photograph – the last known image of the missing art curator.

As he pieced together the timeline, murmuring to himself, the clock’s ticking grew louder.

“Last seen leaving the gallery at 7:30 PM… No calls. No messages…”

He eyed the photograph’s background. A delivery truck with a peculiar logo. A piece of the puzzle?

Scene B: The Gallery, One Week Ago

The art curator, Ms. Jensen, stepped out into the chilly night air, clutching her coat tight.

She eyed the departing delivery truck, the same logo as in her photo glaring back at her. She began dialing a number on her phone when a gloved hand covered her mouth, pulling her into the shadows.

Scene A: Detective Carter’s Office

Carter zoomed into the photograph. The logo matched a local art transport company. Dialing their number, he hoped they might have a lead on Ms. Jensen’s whereabouts.

Scene B: The Gallery, One Week Ago

Bound and gagged, Ms. Jensen was pushed into the back of the delivery truck, the echo of her muffled screams fading as the truck sped away into the night.

2. Sci-fi Screenplay: A Space Battle and Diplomatic Negotiations


Commander Zara watches as her fleet prepares to fire on the approaching human spacecraft. She turns to her second-in-command.

Make sure they remember our power.


Ambassador Lin stands center stage, addressing the Intergalactic Council.

The Warship Clan is misunderstood. We must bridge our differences, not fuel them.


Alarms BLARE. The fleet fires a barrage of lasers, targeting the human defenses.

This is our message to humanity!


The chamber SHAKES as distant explosions are felt. Lin remains composed.

Even now, we must find peace. Our survival depends on it.

3. Romantic Drama Play: A Breakup and A Confession


Jane, tears in her eyes, confronts Robert.

Every day I felt us drifting. I can’t keep holding on to what’s gone.


Liam sits on a park bench, rehearsing his feelings to an imagined Jane.

I’ve been silent for too long, Jane. Every moment without you feels incomplete.


Robert looks away, struggling with his response.

Maybe… Maybe it’s for the best.


Liam takes a deep breath, clutching a letter in his hand.

Today, I’ll tell her the truth. I’ll tell her how I truly feel.

Final Thoughts: How to Write Two Simultaneous Scenes

The arch enemy of parallel scenes is confusion.

Keep your setting, POV, and story straight in your reader’s mind, you are golden.

If you’re writing specific types of scenes — death scenes, chase scenes, awkward scenes, etc — check out our other writing guides below.

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