Thursday, October 27, 2011
Recently I taught a class at the Book Academy and was surprised by how many people in my class had no idea what the scene/sequel sequence is. Judging by some of the disjointed books I've read over the past year, I'd guess a lot of people don't understand this simple method of writing. In case you're interested, here are the basics to this writing method.
To begin with, the scene half of the method consists of three parts.
Goal: This is what the point of view character wishes to accomplish. (Don't confuse this with the writer's goal; their goals may be and usually are quite different.)
Dilemma: This is where the point of view character works through a plan for reaching his or her goal and attempts to carry out that plan.
Disaster: This is where something or someone wrecks the plan or in some cases the point of view character may achieve the goal but getting what he/she wanted can itself be a disaster for various reasons.
A scene is always shown from one character's point of view. No head hopping allowed.
Next comes the sequel which also consists of three parts. It is usually in the same character's point of view, but can be in another character's point of view. If handled right, there can be more than one reaction following one after another from multiple characters' points of view, but not jumbled together.
Reaction: This is where a character reacts to the scene's disaster. It may be as brief as bursting into tears or as long as needed to show the response to the disaster.
Re-evaluate: This is from the same POV as the reaction and is where the reacting character works out a method of dealing with the disaster, determines that something has to be done, and considers ways of dealing with obstacles.
Resolution: This is where the POV character makes up his/her mind to do something specific to correct the disaster. This resolution may become the goal for the next scene which may or may not follow immediately, but should be the goal of a future scene where this character is the POV character.
Following this method is a great way to create a logical sequence to a story. It eliminates the annoying habit some writers have of jumping from one character's head to another until the reader has no idea who is thinking or saying anything. Consecutive scenes may be from different points of view, but a great deal of confusion and annoyance can be avoided by remembering to stay in one character's head until a scene or sequel is finished. A scene or a sequel can be as long or as brief as needed. An entire chapter may consist of one sequence or it may contain several. I find I average about three to a chapter, though this varies.
Another advantage to using this method is the help it gives in overcoming writer's block. If a writer is stuck, I've found it works well to take a blank sheet of paper, space these six steps down one side of the paper, then jot down a brief outline of what needs to happen at each of these steps.
Some writers use this method to outline an entire book on paper. Others only use a mental form of outlining, but still follow these steps. It's an effective way to write, especially for new writers. More experienced writers often work out a variation of this method, but still adhere to one scene/one head.