Scene and Sequel

So, I was talking to a wonderful author who read BLIND HER WITH BLISS. She thought it was fast-paced and a great read. But … and this is very interesting…she needed some time to digest information. Time to understand the actions of the heroine after she’s made a decision to go in another direction. Huh, that totally makes sense.

I’ve had a bunch of readers tell me that a couple of my books end too quickly. That there needed to be a little more information after the climax and resolution. It brought me back to a wonderful workshop I heard suspense/thriller author Lisa Gardner give at a conference I attended. You need to give your reader a breather. Whether it’s a dynamic action scene or an intense sexual encounter, you need to slow down and let your reader digest new information, cogitate on the actions of your characters and get ready for the next scene that will carry them deeper into the conflict.

This is summarized by Dwight Swain as SCENE and SEQUEL. Yes, they’re both scenes within your chapters, but they have different jobs.

SCENE has three parts:
1. Goal – What your POV character desires most at the beginning of the scene. A character going after something they desperately need makes them interesting and makes them proactive in their own story. Readers will care about characters who are working hard toward their goals.
2. Conflict – The series of obstacles your POV character faces in reaching their goal. Your reader wants to see your characters struggle. It makes for a great and fast-paced read.
3. Disaster – Failure for your POV character to reach their goal. Hang your character off a cliff at the end of a scene and you guarantee your reader will be turning the page!

Since your scene ended with a disaster, your character needs to have time to recover. They’re not just going to run out and jump into another conflict. Give them and your readers a chance to settle down and get ready for the next big problem. This “in between” scene is called a sequel.

SEQUEL also has three parts:
1. Reaction – Show your POV character having a visceral reaction to the disaster. Give your reader time to empathize with your character. Hurt with them. Cry with them …care about them.
2. Dilemma – What choices does the POV character face in light of the disaster?
3. Decision – Your POV character makes a choice and decides to act on it. Your characters must be proactive in their own story or you will lose your readers.

This brings you back around to another goal scene. By letting your stories unfold this way, not only are you writing a story your readers can’t stop reading, you’ll be allowing them time to breathe and come down from intense emotions before once again throwing them off a cliff. And don’t ask me how long each of these need to be because the only answer I can offer is … as long as they need to be to do their *job*

What about you? Have you read a book that never gave you space or time to think? As a writer have you heard of this method of writing your scenes? Is it something you consciously do … or does it just come naturally as your story unfolds? Tell me. I’m always curious about this stuff.