“Write in scenes,” I advise my novel writing students. But don’t neglect the sequels, either, I should add. Both the outer and the inner life of the character drives a story. When both are in balance, it make a story hard to resist.
Writing Tip for Today: A story with a bunch of events, even very tense or full of conflict events, is just one darned thing after another. A story with little except the character’s inner life (thoughts and feelings) is navel-gazing and claustrophobic. By balancing the scenes with the sequels, the story events unfold in a logical organic way. Each outer event is linked to an inner motivation. A refresher on scene and sequel:
- Goal + Obstacle=Win/Lose. A character’s motivation should be external and objective. (Someone is coming at him with an axe). The book as a whole needs these components, but so does each scene. If the POV character wins, it’s harder to pull the story to the next scene, so mostly let her lose.
- Sequel =Reactions. People react to events in a specific order, and reactions are internal and subjective. Feelings, first, then reflexive action or a dilemma and last, an action or speech that reflects the character’s decision to act. This propels the reader into the next scene. In high-paced situations, you might not have time for feelings, but the reflex (knee-jerk) can’t come before the feelings, and the rational action can’t come before the reflex or the feeling.
- Practice on the Big Screen. Next movie you watch, look for these scene/sequel moments. In fiction and in cinema, the divisions between scene and sequel sometimes blur, but you should be able to identify them. Check to see if balance between the inner and outer life of the character exists. Are the main events linked to some strong feeling in the character? Chances are, a successful scene/sequel progression includes this balanced model. Now practice writing this way.