Scene Writing: Sequel

Scenes allow readers to “live” events. But what of the processing a character does in response to those events? That’s what I call sequel. In Writing Novels that Sell, Jack Bickman quotes Dwight V. Swain: “Gut-level understanding of scene and sequel is the single most crucial factor in becoming a successful novelist.”
Writing Tip for Today: For me, a sequel is the emotional or thought processing a character does as the events of a scene unfold or just after. If your novel were devoid of these sequels, a character might be tagged as shallow or the pace might seem too quick. Good sequels don’t feel intrusive to the reader, but instead add to the depth of feeling or info the reader craves. Consider these elements: First, scene:

  • A scene is comprised of goal, conflict, disaster.
  • If the story were all acted out, moment by moment, it would become too long. The reader would have to guess at which parts of the story were important and which were only circumstantial.
  • The nature of scene is excitement.
  • In a scene, the goal must be clearly stated, specific and obtainable now.
  • If a scene ends with something good, it probably won’t have as great an effect as if it ends in disaster.

Now, sequel:

  • A sequel is a pattern of emotion or reaction, dilemma, decision and action.
  • In life when things happen, we often have a blind emotional reaction.
  • Later we might try to be logical (weighing the dilemma).
  • We make a decision based on our best assessment.
  • We act (thereby propelling us into scene once again.
  • The nature of sequel is logic, emotion and characterization.

To sum up:

  • Scene and sequel don’t have to play in chronological order.
  • Scene can interrupt sequel and vice versa.
  • A scene or sequel can be skipped entirely.
  • Use scene-sequel structure to change viewpoints.
  • Understanding the use of scenes and sequels are the key to good novels. They know when to rapid-fire action to the reader (scene) and when to slow things down with sequel.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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