Scene & Sequel

The Peaks and Valleys of Writing
Simply put, a scene defines a goal, presents conflict, ends in disaster, thus driving the story forward. The sequel ties that scene to the next, gives the reader and your hero a bit of a rest. It’s much like inserting peaks and valleys in your writing. In the scene we climb to the peak and descend to the valley which is the sequel, then we climb up to the next peak or conflict that is going to fall into the valley on the next disaster. Others relate the sequel to the bridge between scenes.

The three things a scene should include are:
Goal: A hero wants to posses something, wants revenge for something or wants to be relieved of something. Thus she wants to achieve something or she wants to resist something.
Conflict: Not argument between characters as some might believe, but rather is what happens in opposition to what hero wants.
Disaster: Something happens to prevent the hero from reaching her goal. It need not be disastrous in the strict sense of the word. It might simply be someone showing up she did not expect with information she did not know that puts an entirely new light on her struggle to achieve her goal. Or it can simply be a dark hint of what may happen if she pursues her goal, rather than a specific disaster.

Some scenes will be extremely huge in definition, while others may be smaller, but all will be important because they define the character, strengthen her and enforce conflict. And most important, each scene must drive the story forward. Regardless of what you might hear, there is no set rule on the amount of scenes to a chapter, etc. It takes how many it takes, and you as the writer feel the rhythm. You may only put in the bones of a scene, bridge it in sequel, and go on to another, knowing that you will go back and flesh out those bones with dialogue, a sense of place, etc., later.

Remember, rules stifle creativity. Build your scenes as they occur to you, you can edit later and make sure each one contains all the elements for a good scene. At first, write them, putting your characters in deep trouble and letting them dig their way out. In editing use dialogue extensively, and show don’t tell. Add a sense of place effectively as the scene progresses.

The sequel is simply a transition from one scene to the next. It lets the hero pull back and reevaluate her goal, makes her take a quick look at reality and most importantly lets the reader take a breath. If you race as fast as you can to the end of your book, you may exhaust your reader. So control the tempo, and take a rest occasionally. Don’t run your horse to death.

Among other things, the sequel will show the heroes reaction to the previous scene, allow her to mull her dilemma and discover motivation for the next scene. Besides controlling tempo, a sequel turns the disaster into yet another goal and anchors the hero in reality. Reaction, Dilemma and Decision become the job of the sequel.

Only when your hero decides where to go from here can your next scene begin. I also like to use these rest spots for BRIEF flashbacks (occasionally), but only if they lend to the forward motion of the story, and only if they relate directly to the scene that has just occurred.

Suppose your previous scene foiled the heroes goal, but presented new choices. In the sequel she will decide which one to chose. This effectively bridges one scene to the next. You can also take advantage of a sequel to allow large chunks of time to pass which you would not want to write scene by scene. As someone wiser than I once said, fiction is life with all the dull parts left out.

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About veldabrotherton

I'm primarily a writer, but I also speak and teach workshops and co-chair a large critique group. My brand is SexyDarkGritty and that applies to my western historical romances, mysteries, women's fiction and horror novels. After almost 30 years in this business, I still have something to learn and attend conferences to network with other writers, publishers, editors and agents.
This entry was posted in conflict, goal, motivation, scenes, sequels, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Scene & Sequel

  1. A usual, good informative post. Do you teach a writing class anywhere, or have you?

  2. zhadi says:

    Yup, another great post! Who needs to buy ‘how to write books’ when we can come hang out on these great blogs?

  3. Yes, I’ve taught and still do teach writing in the form of workshops and at conferences. I’m also co-chair of a critique group going into our 23rd year. We teach a lot there. I once taught a six week course in Adult Education for the University of Arkansas on writing the romance novel.Guess that’ll teach you to ask questions, Marvin.

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