1. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Scene and Sequels

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by GeorgiaB, Feb 5, 2012.

    Hi All,

    I'm fairly new to this site, and have really enjoyed lurking around here so far. I've learned a lot.

    I am currently 70,000 words into the very rough first draft of a young adult novel. I've been writing all of my life, but novel writing is all new to me. I signed up for an online class, and our teacher is having us break down our writing into scenes and sequels (i.e. scene includes goal, conflict, and disaster and is the physical journey; and sequel consists of emotion, thought, decision, and action and is the emotional journey). I did a quick internet search and I know these are not new concepts, even though there are varying words used to describe them.

    I am really struggling. I think if I were trying to write from scratch using these guidelines, it would be easier. But I'm trying to rework some of my rough draft's scenes using these guidelines and it's frustrating. I don't particularly like having to write this way, but I'm not blind about my writing. It needs help! Out of my 70,000 words there are several areas that I really do like, so I assumed those must be the places where I naturally used scenes and sequels, but I don't think that is necessarily the case. I am going to go crazy if rewriting comes down to doing this for every little scene I've written.

    I don't have a specific question but would absolutely love any other writers' experiences and thoughts!

    Thank you!

    Georgia B
     
  2. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    Writers workshops are all well and good, and can give some good tips and advice, but don't let them dictate how you should write if the particular approach they advocate doesn't work for you. I've never even heard of this 'scene and sequel' concept, and it hasn't harmed my writing.

    You might be at the stage where you'd benefit from some broader feedback on your novel - do you have any friends you trust to give you an honest and informed opinion? If not, make some contacts on forums like this one and get your work out there for critique.

    Getting real readers' opinions is the only way to improve your writing, not by overanalysing it according to someone's idea of a literary construction model.
     
  3. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks for your response, Kallithrix! I definitely agree with you -- I have been going through this class with a bit of skepticism but I do think it will help me overall with my writing, whether or not I use what is taught. After all, it is making me, well, write.

    I am sure you are right about getting real readers, but I have to be honest, I am not ready for this yet. (I just now announced that I am writing a book; only about two people even knew about it until recently.) I can't imagine showing my work to anyone until I've done some rewriting. I know it needs so much improvement, and there are definitely problems I will find on my own.

    But thanks for the point about overanalyzing. That's what I've been doing all morning. And it sucks. I need to just move forward and create more pages. Really, right now that is what feels the best.

    Georgia B :)
     
  4. jonathan.gaurano
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    jonathan.gaurano Member

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    Hi Georgia:

    I think the best way you can learn how to write a successful novel, is to read successful novels in your genre. Also, there are some great short-story novelist like Kurt Vonnegut! The more you read, the more your writing will improve. A book I'm going to recommend is called: "The Fault In Our Stars" by John Greene. It is a fiction teen novel that is really, really good.

    I hope this helps.
     
  5. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Jonathan -- Good point! I KNOW I'm not reading enough, but I'd like to. (With three small kids, it's hard to do anything -- one is screaming right now, in fact.) But I do have to say my very latest read was "The Fault in our Stars." LOVED it. It was one of the best books I've ever read. I just bought Looking for Alaska.

    Thanks!

    Georgia B
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm no fan of the scene and sequel model. I prefer the simple dynamic of a plot, which consists of an actor, a goal or objective, a motivation, and an opposition. It is equally applicable to internal or external conflict, so there is no need to constrain the physical and emotional journey to be paired one-on-one. Plots combine by having a common goal or actor, but a plot can also serve as the opposition to another plot. Plots drive the storyline, which is the chronology of events comprising the story, and the entire linked collection of plots is a plot network.

    As you are discovering, not every story dissembles well into the scene and sequel model. That model may be helpful to some writers for constructing a story from scratch, but I would never recommend reworking a story just to make it fit that mold.
     
  7. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd never heard of the 'Scene and Sequel' model before today. Thanks for discussing this. I just finished reading an extensive article on the concept and I'm going to try it out on my own work. It sounds like it might be useful, during a first draft of course, as Cogito points out. It sounds like it might be a recipe for hair-pulling during a rewrite.
     
  8. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with Cogito. I've never heard of "scene and sequel" before now, and I've taken four online writing courses. Nobody mentioned it.

    Don't force your work into that format. But when you're revising, if you're honest, you might find yourself deleting scenes that don't really advance the plot or develop character in any way, and what's left just might turn out to look a little like this scene and sequel method.

    Have you ever seen the Coen Brothers' movie "Fargo"? It's a great movie. Thinking back on it now, it seems like quite a bit of it breaks down nicely into this scene and sequel idea.

    But as I said, don't force it. Write what you want the way you want to, and then, in revision, you can take out what doesn't work. Your novel will be stronger.
     
  9. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have heard of the scene and sequel model and from the moment I read it, it sounded like the biggest pile of horse manure I've ever seen in writing advice. (Especially seeing as the writer of the article was so insistent that you HAVE to use this model to have a good story and that you cannot possibly be a good writer if you do not do it exactly like he says.) Frankly, the recipe he gave seemed to be one for a very predictable and boring story.
     
  10. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'd say 'drop the class' and just work on editing your novel the 'normal' way... and i'd strongly advise taking jonathan's and cog's advice... it's what i'd also recommend...
     
  11. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    Thanks so much for all your insight. I appreciate it. It's funny, because only three people in the class have posted their scene and sequel "assignment" to the class message board. Apparently, I'm not the only one who is having difficulty implementing the technique or who is finding it impractical. Still, I'm determined to learn from this class, primarily what works for me and what doesn't. I did really appreciate studying the three act model and how it applied to my novel. That was useful in structuring the whole thing. This scene and sequel thing, though, is the first thing to make me raise an eyebrow.

    Thanks again!

    Georgia
     
  12. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well I've spent some time going over this 'scene and sequel' idea and I like it. I really appreciate you bringing it up GeorgiaB. I like to have every possible tool in my toolbox and this is one I'd missed. It's a bit of a mind-bender but I can see it being very useful for tightening up action passages and keeping things fast (when that's what you want).
     
  13. Show
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    Once I see that a story is using the scene/sequel model (and I have spotted it), it automatically becomes less interesting and ten times more predictable.
     
  14. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmm. I hadn't thought of that. Maybe using this technique only 'works' if you're good enough to really hide it?
    Are there any other 'models' I should know about? Anything that might help strengthen my stories?
     
  15. Show
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    ^^^^The problem is that the model is so specific that you can't really "hide" it while using it religiously. You can maybe implement elements of it when needed, but writing an entire novel that way is just a perfect way to ensure that the book follows a very predictable pattern. As I said, I've seen it used, and once I spot it, it's pretty easy to see what's going to happen in any given scene. I think it's best to not use too specific of a model and just write the story.
     
  16. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Scene and sequel probably comes from a very good book called "Scene and Structure" by Jack Bickham. I don't know what your course is teaching you, but in the book, it is only a way of understanding the structure, but it also writes about all the ways you can break the rules. It is really there in case you find yourself with a story that doesn't read well, if you don't know how to fix it, when things don't make much sense, that looking at the scene and sequel helps.
    Because everyone writes in some form of scene and sequel mode, all stories go from external to internal back and forth and that's essentially what it is. Not a rigid set of rules, just a way of breaking down a narrative into components.
    If you haven't I'd recommend you read the book, it might become more clear what it's really about.
     
  17. MVP
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    I just googled the scene/ sequel method...and I think I'd have to double fist Jack n coke and Guinness, in order to satisfy the split personality I just developed, from reading about it.
     
  18. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    I had a look at it and although I get the theory, I can't for the life of me see how it would work in practice. It's far too prescriptive for my liking, because I don't think every scene can be broken down into goal > conflict > diaster > reaction > dilema > decision > goal... ad infinitum.

    That might be the way Dan Brown writes, but it's hack writing. Anyone trying to peddle the idea that you can apply a formula and voila! instant bestselling novel, is just out to take your money.
     
  19. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    "...scene includes goal, conflict, and disaster and is the physical journey; and sequel consists of emotion, thought, decision, and action and is the emotional journey..."

    Without too much analysis, you can see that most novels consist of action scenes (not necessarily physical action) where the character(s) is/are up against a situation, mental block, or person; and after them, there is a reaction scene, where the character(s) is/are make a decision, crack up, etc.
    I don't find that bearing this in mind makes the writing formulaic or inhibits me, and the scenes can be any length, with several to a chapter...
    But use it if it helps you, don't bother if it doesn't.
     
  20. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    Kali, the book precisely says that it is not a formula, that following it blindly won't get you anywhere, it is just a way of breaking down the story into components in order to fix something that doesn't work. It is a general discussion. That's the original, now I don't know if writing courses have bastardised the idea, but the book most definitely doesn't encourage formulaic writing in any way.
     
  21. topeka sal
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    topeka sal Senior Member

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    I have an MFA and have never heard of scene and sequel! In general, I hate rules and their related terminologies. I suppose they can be useful sometimes in a kind of "building blocks" way (and experimentation through exercises can be good for growth), but when people take them too literally or as universal truths or try to force their narratives to satisfy the rules, I start to get itchy.

    My advice is to take what's useful from your class and disregard the rest. And read read read read read! Then listen to your own voice.
     
  22. TDFuhringer
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    TDFuhringer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yes! I am about to do a rewrite of my SF Short Story Contest entry using the scene & sequel method, for precisely this reason. The story just isn't very good. There are some interesting moments and some intriguing ideas but they aren't assembled well. The story has serious structure problems. I'm hoping a dose of scene & sequel helps give the story some shape and a sense of pace.
     
  23. GeorgiaB
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    GeorgiaB Member

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    This has been an interesting thread to follow -- thanks for all the responses. I still haven't done my assignment yet. :) What we're learning is that you can skip some steps in the process as needed (as long as they are implied) but you should never go out of order. Now, that is ridiculous. So, basically, thoughts must ALWAYS follow emotions, etc. Certainly I'm not grasping it 100% just yet, (as I gave up trying and am just simply trying to write freely right now) but what I can tell is that writing a whole novel this way would be a tedious process and you wouldn't end up with a great read (as Show mentioned). Jazzabel, thanks for your insight. I think these are good concepts to understand and use as needed but to use them like a writing bible -- not so great. In the long run I'm probably better for knowing them even if I don't consciously implement them.

    Georgia
     
  24. Snap228
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    Snap228 Member

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    Yay, another young adult writer! Seriously, though, that class is going to help you LOADS.

    The best way to figure it out is just to keep writing. 70,000 words is an accomplishment! I don't want to scare you off, but I wrote two full novels (both about 100,000 words) before I started to see significant growth in my work. So just keep at it!

    If you want some tips and pointers and stuff I learned specific to YA stuff, feel free to PM/email me, as that's most of what I write.
     
  25. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    I can't tell you how glad I was to read this. While I have written a lot of other things, I am new to writing fiction novels. Before starting, I did a lot of research on the "proper" way to write a novel. I found a lot of information online that praises the 'Scene & Sequel' format. But every time I try to think about the structure of my story, I start to stress out. My hope was that I could just write it out the way it is in my head and then go back and edit it with this structure in mind.

    However, your concept of actor/goal/motivation/opposition is so much easier to understand! Thank you so much! I feel better now. :D
     

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