|Crafting a Story: Scene and Sequel, Part I
||[Nov. 22nd, 2004|03:06 am]
|||||E.S. Posthumus - Antissa||]|
Scene and Sequel, Part I
Scenes and sequels are easy ways to break your stories into segments that propel your main character towards achieving his story goal. It's the 'cause and effect' drive of your story that addresses your story's
overarching goal as well as any distracting side goals you intend for your hapless character.
A scene is the action of your story. Stuff happens here, like car chases, duels, dramatic revelations, and confrontations with your villain. There are three elements of a scene, as described by the
late, great Jack Bickham: Scene Goal, Conflict, Disaster (GCD). Every scene goal should explain your story question/goal in some small way.
Overall Story Goal/Question: Who drugged Harry and Hermione with a
Love Potion? And Why?
Scene Goal: Wait a minute! Why are we married?
In order to move your story along there must be—dun dun DUN!—conflict.
Scene Conflict: We've been drugged with a love potion!
Do not try to resolve any problems here. Readers are kept in suspense by constant conflict. The more problems your main character has, the more they love it.
Scene Disaster: Not only have we been drugged with a love potion and are married, but according to the Wizarding Marriage Restriction Act of 1904, we can't get an annulment.
It's this disaster question which will propel your reader into the next scene. This also happens to be a great place to put a cliffhanger or a chapter break, something we'll discuss in a later edition.
Now you’re at the point where your characters can reflect on the things that happened to them in the previous scene. A sequel is the reaction portion of the scene-sequel dynamic and in nine out of ten
times must follow a scene. This is your chance to establish an emotional connection with the reader by having your character follow the next few steps:
1. React emotionally to the disaster
2. Think rationally about the disaster
3. Formulate a new short-term scene goal
4. Take the next steps towards a new scene
Or: Emotion, Thought, Decision, Action (ETDA). #3 & #4 can be collapsed into one process.
Following my model, if my main character is Harry:
Emotion: This is so horrible! I'm married to Hermione and we can't get a divorce...My poor bachelorhood!
Thought: Think rationally. Someone had to do this, and had to have access to our food.
Decision/Action: I will investigate whoever had access to my food and try to remember whom I offended lately.
Nothing should be easy for your main character, but nothing should also be so ridiculously hard that everything is insurmountable. He needs to make a little bit of progress at a time. Your character starts the story at point Z and—poor bastard—gets pushed back towards A as the story moves forward. Also, your character's route does not need to be linear. In fact, that's the point. He's going to get to A by traversing L, pi, red, and playing on Pluto. He needs to be distracted from his story goal by side scene goals that should make it appear to the reader that the shortest distance to a from one point to the next is indeed a curved line.
Next up (from me at least) Scene and Sequel, Part II: Plotting and Stuff
Most of this is summarized from Jack Bickham's Scene and Structure, an absolutely excellent book. I, however, would hardly know that since twilightsorcery stole mine and took it to another state. So if anything makes very little sense, it's because I'm writing from memory and any and all blame should be accorded to her.
EDIT 7:28 PM Nov 24 2004: Entry made public.