I've talked quite a lot about scenes in this blog. I talked about types of scenes and how to construct them; I talked about what scenes are going to be remembered and how to invoke emotions using them. What I haven't talked about up until today was how to frame them, i.e. when to start and finish them.
Scene-Framing is one of the greatest tools in the GM's arsenal in order to control the pacing of the game and story, and it can also cut a lot of frustration if scenes are cut before they bore the players. So, how can we achieve that?
As we probably know by now, each scene has a purpose, a role that it should fill in the greater whole. So, even before we put it in, so to speak, we must ask ourselves if this scene will help the game in some way or the other. It can help by enriching the story or by advancing it, it can help by breaking a much too tense tension or it can help an-up-until-now-quiet player to shine. If it fills at least one of this roles, consider putting it in. and of course remember its purpose.
When we start a scene, the number one rule is that the scene should start a little bit before the action starts. This helps you to both set the ground for the action (thus building anticipation) while also cutting down the boring stuff. Don't roleplay Lisa waiting for hours for her contact to arrive, start the scene a few moments before the contact arrives, like with her looking at the clock nervously as the contact is almost late, and then a black car is seen at a distance. This way, you build anticipation, you give the sense of the time passing and you also skip the boring part of waiting and waiting and… waiting.
Finishing the scene well is also very important. We don't want the scene to drag, right? Remember that I mentioned the role of the scene? This is where it comes in handy: Once the role, the purpose of the scene is fulfilled, the scene is over. It is usually advised to ask the players if they fill that the scene should end, but if the purpose has been filled they will probably feel like it too.
Another way to know when to close the scene and move to the next one is to try to discern the amounts of energy around the table. If the levels seem to dwindle, it is probably the time to close the scene. Otherwise, the lasting taste will be bitter.
How about you? Do you have another method around which you frame the scenes? Is there anything that I've missed? Feel free to write those in the comments.