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  1. mrieder79

    mrieder79 Probably not a ground squirrel

    Jul 3, 2013
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    The Brazos Formation

    Implementation of Scene and Sequel

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by mrieder79, Jan 10, 2014.

    I have been reading articles on Swain's application of scene and sequel and organizational structuring for fiction. So far it is working for me and I feel that my writing is more coherent for it. I wanted to start a discussion about their implementation. It seems that a scene could be comprised on only one or many chapters. I suppose a scene and sequel could exist within the same chapter.

    How big are the scenes and sequels in your work? I'm certain it varies, but I still want to hear. How do you implement these organizational structures?
  2. Robert_S

    Robert_S Contributing Member

    Aug 25, 2013
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    I think the word is "sequence" though I could be wrong. I write in the screenplay area, so scene and sequence are words that get slung around a lot. Now, because I work with screenplays, here is a rough breakdown of the traditional screenplay format:

    • Act I
      • Sequence 1
        • Scene
        • Scene
        • Scene
      • Sequence 2
        • Scene
        • Scene
        • Scene
    • Act II
      • Sequence 3
        • Scene
        • Scene
      • Sequence 4
      • Sequence 5
      • Sequence 6
    • Act III
      • Sequence 7
      • Sequence 8
    Movies and plays are in general, three act stories in script format.

    A scene has different meanings, depending on the writer. Some consider a group of slugline (headers) of tightly related time/space relations a scene, while some consider each individual slugline header as the start of a scene. A sequence is a composition of related scenes as well. Also, the standard is that each transition from sequence to sequence denotes a change in the MC or story.

    A sequence could be a chapter. A scene would be a time and space depiction.
  3. xanadu

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Oct 21, 2008
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    Cave of Ice
    @Robert_S , actually, Swain's Scene and Sequel is a plotting technique for novels/short stories, in which the action is broken into longer bits of moment-by-moment showing and shorter bits of telescoping and reflection. The general idea is that, in the scene, you set up the POV character's goal and have the character meet with opposition in the attempt to attain it. Using Swain's technique, the desired result is that the attempt end in failure and reduce the POV character's options going forward. This piece is written essentially minute-by-minute in motivation-reaction units, in which the character reacts to stimuli at an immediate, emotional level.

    The sequel, on the other hand, follows the scene. The POV character reacts to the disaster and reflects on it--this is essentially the "walking the streets" bit, where the character is not doing anything dangerous but rather biding time until she/he can have another go. During this time, the character has to decide how best to go about trying again, which leads to a choice between the remaining options. This bit is usually shorter and spans longer amounts of time. The end result is a new decision, leading to a goal, and consequently another scene.

    It's often criticized as being formulaic, though it is undoubtedly effective when used properly. Personally, I've only ever intentionally used it once, though I'm sure the structure exists in some of my work without me even realizing it. Though I agree with a number of Swain's techniques, I don't necessarily consider them the be-all-end-all. For example, as a reader, I don't particularly care if a scene ends in "disaster." It just needs to end in an interesting way. The character can have a small victory and I'll still keep turning the page. Or it can end in a stalemate, as long as it's interesting. But it's worth keeping in mind while writing, especially if you know you have a tough time with pacing or keeping the reader engaged.

    As I said, I'm sure I've used it subconsciously. It is a natural way to tell a story, after all. But it's not something I routinely try to write to. In the one bit I did do intentionally, the entire scene-sequel structure was part of a chapter (a third or a half, I think), and it led into another scene. After that I just let it go naturally again.

    When working with structures like these, I think it may be prudent to write first and fit to structure afterwards. It certainly was slow going when I tried to actively follow it, and I'm usually a lot faster. And, of course, you can always feel free to deviate. Whether it works or not, well, that's up to the readers.
  4. Cogito

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    May 19, 2007
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    Massachusetts, USA
    Scene and sequel is not the same thing as scene and sequence. Scene and sequel is a writing model built around making every scene move the story forward in s fairly specific way. Although I appreciate its intent, it is too easily interpreted in a very literal way, leading to a very rigid, formulaic structure. It could be termed scene and consequence, or scene and backlash instead.

    I don't subscribe to this model because of that rigidity. I do believe in making every scene advance the story or develop a character in ways that are important to the story, but I think that can be achieved less formally.

    Having said that, I'll step out again. Scene and sequel does work for some people, no matter what I personally feel about it.
    xanadu likes this.

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