"A cat has absolute emotional honesty: human beings, for one reason or another, may hide their feelings but a cat does not." -Ernest Hemingway

Friday, May 27, 2011

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

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. 

So, 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 finally, The End.  (Yes, I was one of those “geeks” in high school who paid attention in English Lit, in fact, I loved it!)  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 write forever.

Let’s explore:

Scenes are mostly plot (action) and sequels are mostly story (emotional). Last week, we explored the defining difference between plot and story (click here).  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.

This week we’ll break down scene and how it plays a role in conveying plot.   


It’s important for every scene to do two things; 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.  Why?  The goal is what your protagonist desires; it’s what sets them in 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 and 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 examine:  Which scene makes you want to read more?

Scene I:  The desert flower was so unique, but remembering I forgot to pack my EpiPen the buzzing bee made me decide not to pick its sweet aroma. Hint:(zzzzzzzzzzz)  

Scene II:  The desert flower was so unique it made me reach out and pluck its sweet aroma, making the buzzing bee angry. Feeling its stinging pinch I reach into my back pack just as I remembered forgetting to pack my EpiPen. 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:

The flower was so unique it made me reach out and pluck its sweet aroma {goal}, making the buzzing bee angry {conflict}. Feeling its stinging pinch I reach into my back pack just as I remembered leaving my EpiPen at home {disaster}.

So if you have a scene that fails to provide interest and move the story forward, you need to cut it-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 a scene can be as long 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 script writers to create a cliffhanger. 

Next week, 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!

Until then,

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

T.K. Millin
The Unknown Author


  1. Great post. My only complaint is having to wait a whole week! for the rest.


  2. I agree with mooderino. I'll be expecting part two tomorrow.

    Another great post, young lady!


  3. Thank you Blaze! Efi Loo is hard at work on Part Two, while, I'm off to play for the week-end!