Do you understand the building blocks of a scene? Have you heard of scene and sequel?

The concept and terms (confusing because there is both Scene and scene) were coined by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. At its core, scene and sequel are ways to control the pace of your story, and keep your plot moving forward. 

 Scene allows tension to build; Sequel allows the reader time to process, and the Point of View character’s actions drive the plot forward.  Looking at the big picture of your story, your ultimate goal is to create an emotional experience for your reader. Readers have to have a character they can relate to or with whom they can identify. To make the emotional response powerful, you need to amp up the emotional experience. The reader needs to feel as if they are the heroine of the romance, the sleuth in the mystery, the captain fighting a killer whale, the man barely outwitting a killer. They need to feel as if they are in the story. I ALWAYS come back to scene and sequel. They are two parts of a whole scene. Put another way, scene is the ‘cause’ and the sequel is the ‘effect’. t’s the response to the tension. 

What is a Scene?

First, we have to answer the question: What is a scene?

As I mentioned above, it’s a unit within the greater whole of your story (or a novel). A scene:

1. Generally occurs in a single setting, at a single time

2. Generally features the same characters throughout

I say generally because there are always exceptions to any rule, but we’re not looking at those exceptions. We’re looking at the rule.

Dwight Swain suggests in his book that there are two scene structures. One is called Scenes, the other Sequels. It’s kind of confusing because the word scene is used broadly, to explain every scene with a story; but it’s also used specifically to explain Scene and Sequel, which, again, are the two PARTS of a scene.

In a Scene (capitalized, so the first half of a Scene and Sequel unit), there are three parts. We keep moving into smaller units of measurement as we create our stories.

Within a Scene, a character:

1. Has a goal, with motivation

2. Faces an obstacle or conflict when trying to achieve that goal

3. Suffers from a disaster


In the subsequent Sequel (the second half of the Scene/Sequel unit), the character:

1. Has a reaction to the disaster

2. Faces a dilemma about what to do

3. Makes a decision on how to proceed

Scene and Sequel. 

There is so much more to developing a scene and there are many ways to write a scene. Using Scene and Sequel is one tried and true method. It ensures you write a complete scene because you’ve build in the cause and the effect your POV character must face and react to.

I go into this concept in depth in the WriterSpark Ready, Set, WRITE! course. It is one of the lessons in module 4. Check it out! It’s an amazing course.

Did you read about my 6 questions to ask before writing a scene? Read it HERE!

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