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How Discovering Scene and Sequel Changed the Way I Write Forever: Part One

Monday, June 23, 2014

Contributing author: T.K. Millin

 

I’ve never met an author who said they just one day woke up and decided it would be cool to be a writer and set their life compass in that direction.  For most, wanting to write is a desire driven by a deep internal writer’s voice. Some authors pursue a writer’s life straight out of high school or college, (and for some while they’re still in school!), but I believe it’s safe to say most of us go on to do something else while our ever persisting writer’s voice keeps nagging, tugging and pulling at us until we eventually take the path we were meant to walk. 

 

Many years ago when I finally succumbed to my writer’s voice I sought the wisdom and expertise of authors who willingly and openly taught their experience to aspiring writers.  It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

 

Like most aspiring writers I had a good understanding of the three-act structure.  I knew about opening with a hook, creating a trigger for the crisis, having an epiphany before the climax and then, finally, The End.  (Yep, you’ve probably guessed by now I was one of those “geeks” in high school who actually paid attention during English Lit!)  What I didn’t know was how scenes themselves are divided into their own internal structure known as scene and sequel, and how discovering this would change the way I would write forever.

 

Let’s explore:

 

Scenes are mostly plot (action) and sequels are mostly story (emotion). Basically put, scenes move the action forward while sequels explore the action’s effect on your protagonist.

 

Scenes and sequel always come in pairs for one cannot exist without the other.  For example, a scene without a sequel would have no meaning and a sequel without a preceding scene would have no reason to exist at all.

 

In part one, we’ll break down the “scene” and discover how it plays a role in conveying plot.

 

THE ELEMENTS OF SCENE 

 

There are two important things that every scene should do:  provide interest and move the story forward.  Which is why every scene has three elements:  Goal, conflict and disaster, and it’s important they consist in this order.  Let’s find out why.

 

The goal is what your protagonist desires; it’s what sets them into motion.  It can be a goal of an object, information or even revenge. 

 

The conflict is a struggle against some opposing factor and it can be a verbal, mental or physical struggle, which will provide interest

 

The disaster is what keeps the readers reading to find out how the character deals with it. 

 

Without these three elements it’s most likely the reader will put your book down and never return to it.

 

Let’s practice:  Which scene makes you want to read more?

 

Practice Scene #One:  I reached for the unique desert flower, but remembering I forgot to pack my epinephrine injector, the buzzing bee changed my mind.  Hint:  (zzzzzzzzzzz)

 

Practice Scene #Two:  I reached for the unique desert flower and plucked its sweet aroma, ignoring the buzzing bee. The burning sensation from his angry stinger reminded me I left my epinephrine injector on the bathroom vanity.  Hint:  (Oh no, will they have an allergic reaction and die before they can get help?)

 

What’s the difference?  The first one lacks the three elements of goal, conflict and disaster while the second one doesn’t. 

 

Let’s break it down:

 

I reached for the unique desert flower and plucked its sweet aroma {goal}, ignoring the buzzing bee {conflict}.  The burning sensation from his angry stinger reminded me I left my epinephrine injector on the bathroom vanity {disaster}.

 

So, if you have a scene that fails to provide interest and move the story forward, you need to send it to the editing cut room, even if it is one of your favorite scenes.  However, don’t delete it forever, it you’re like me you save all your written words for you never know where they may find a home!

 

It’s important to understand that a scene can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a few chapters.  It’s also important to understand a scene is not every single sentence.  In other words, every sentence is not goal, conflict and disaster.  Some writers will end a chapter at a goal or a disaster, both making the reader wanting to turn the page.  This is the same technique used by scriptwriters to create a cliffhanger.

 

In Part Two, we’ll explore "sequel" to find out how it plays a role in conveying story and how when you combine scene and sequel together it can change the way you write forever!

 

Keep on thriving, keep on striving and keep on writing!

 

T.K. Millin

 

I’d love for you to share your thoughts in the comment section below!

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