Scene and sequel



Scene and sequel are two types of written passages used by authors to advance the plot of a
story Story or stories may refer to: Common uses * Story, a narrative (an account of imaginary or real people and events) ** Short story, a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting * Story (American English), or storey (Britis ...
. ''Scenes'' propel a story forward as the character attempts to achieve a goal.Swain, p. 84-85. ''Sequels'' provide an opportunity for the character to react to the scene, analyze the new situation, and decide upon the next course of action.


The concept of a scene in written fiction has evolved over many years. Dwight V. Swain, in ''Techniques of the Selling Writer'' (1965) defined a ''scene'' as a unit of conflict, an account of an effort to attain a goal despite opposition. According to Swain, the functions of a scene are to provide interest and to move the story forward. The structure of a scene, as described by Swain, is (1) goal, (2) conflict, (3) disaster. In ''The Art of Fiction'' (1983), John Gardner described a scene as having an unbroken flow of action without a lapse of time or leap from one setting to another. Over the years, other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of ''scene'', and to explain its use and structure.


In addition to defining a scene, Swain described a ''sequel'' as a unit of transition that links two scenes, adding that a sequel functions to translate disaster into a goal, telescope reality, and control tempo. Swain also described the structure of a sequel as (1) reaction, (2)
dilemma A dilemma ( grc-gre, δίλημμα "double proposition") is a problem offering two possibilities, neither of which is unambiguously acceptable or preferable. The possibilities are termed the ''horns'' of the dilemma, a clichéd usage, but disti ...
, and (3) decision. Other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of a ''sequel'' and to explain its use and structure.

Proactive vs. reactive

Rather than viewing scenes and sequels as distinct types of passages, some authors express the concept as two types of scenes: proactive and reactive.

Scenes and sequels

Swain defined, described, and explained scene and sequel as if they were separate entities, but then he explained that they must complement each other, linking together smoothly into a story. He went on to observe that *An author controls pacing by the way he proportions scene to sequel. *Flexibility is important, versus a mechanical approach. *The peaks and valleys in a diagram of a story correspond to scenes and sequels.

Structural units of fiction

The ''structural units of fiction writing'' comprise all fiction.Klaassen, p. 3. *A
chapter Chapter or Chapters may refer to: Books * Chapter (books), a main division of a piece of writing or document * Chapter book, a story book intended for intermediate readers, generally age 7–10 * Chapters (bookstore), Canadian big box bookstore ...
is a segment of writing delineated by a form of punctuation called a ''chapter break''. ''
Prologue A prologue or prolog (from Greek πρόλογος ''prólogos'', from πρό ''pró'', "before" and λόγος ''lógos'', "word") is an opening to a story that establishes the context and gives background details, often some earlier story that ...
'' and ''
epilogue An epilogue or epilog (from Greek ἐπίλογος ''epílogos'', "conclusion" from ἐπί ''epi'', "in addition" and λόγος ''logos'', "word") is a piece of writing at the end of a work of literature, usually used to bring closure to the w ...
'' are two specialized types of chapters. *A chapter may include one or more ''sections'', passages separated by another form of punctuation called a ''section break''. *Scenes and sequels are specialized passages of writing. A ''scene'' is a passage of writing in which the character attempts to achieve a goal. A ''sequel'' is a passage of writing in which the character reacts reflectively to the previous scene. *Some novels, especially long ones, may be further divided into ''books'' or ''parts'', each including two or more chapters. *The smallest units of writing are words,
phrase In syntax and grammar, a phrase is a group of words or singular word acting as a grammatical unit. For instance, the English expression "the very happy squirrel" is a noun phrase which contains the adjective phrase "very happy". Phrases can co ...
clause In language, a clause is a constituent that comprises a semantic predicand (expressed or not) and a semantic predicate. A typical clause consists of a subject and a syntactic predicate, the latter typically a verb phrase composed of a verb with ...
s, sentences, and
paragraph A paragraph () is a self-contained unit of discourse in writing dealing with a particular point or idea. Though not required by the orthographic conventions of any language with a writing system, paragraphs are a conventional means of organizing e ...
s. *Two or more paragraphs with some common purpose are referred to as ''passages'' or ''segments'' of writing.

Types of passages

Passages of writing may be classified into four groups: (1) scenes, (2) sequels, (3) passages that are ''neither'' scenes nor sequels, and (4) passages that include elements of ''both'' scenes and sequels. Examples of passages that are neither scenes nor sequels include ''fragments'' of scenes or sequels and passages of narration, description, or
exposition Exposition (also the French for exhibition) may refer to: *Universal exposition or World's Fair *Expository writing **Exposition (narrative) *Exposition (music) *Trade fair * ''Exposition'' (album), the debut album by the band Wax on Radio *Exposi ...
. An example of a passage that includes elements of both scenes and sequels is the ''problem-solving passage'', common in mystery and
detective stories A detective is an investigator, usually a member of a law enforcement agency. They often collect information to solve crimes by talking to witnesses and informants, collecting physical evidence, or searching records in databases. This leads the ...

Types of scenes

Scenes may be classified by their position within the story (such as an opening scene or a climax scene). A scene may be classified by the fiction-writing mode that dominates its presentation (as in an
action Action may refer to: * Action (narrative), a literary mode * Action fiction, a type of genre fiction * Action game, a genre of video game Film * Action film, a genre of film * ''Action'' (1921 film), a film by John Ford * ''Action'' (1980 fil ...
scene or a
dialogue Dialogue (sometimes spelled dialog in American English) is a written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange. As a philosophical or didactic device, it is ...
scene). Some scenes have specialized roles (such as flashback scenes and
flashforward A flashforward (also spelled flash-forward, and more formally known as prolepsis) is a scene that temporarily takes the narrative forward in time from the current point of the story in literature, film, television and other media. Flashforwards a ...
scenes).Klaassen, p. 23.

The Anatomy of a Scene

Before a writer crafts a scene, they must know its purpose as it relates to the story, because each scene must move the plot forward. If nothing new happens, if the character has not been changed, then the scene is not effective. Each scene should be a response to the one that came before it. Something happens that makes the character react or change. It can be physically, emotionally, or both. Then the character must decide what to do next. The previous scene's ending triggers the next scene's beginning. Just like the whole story, each scene has a beginning, middle, and end. And much like the start of any story, each scene's beginning must hook the reader. The middle can't lag. Tension or conflict must rise. It doesn't need to be action-packed. Maybe there's unspoken tension between characters, internal conflict for the protagonist, or new information is discovered. The scene ends with the character processing what just happened, and their response (a reaction, a decision) sets up the beginning of the next scene. Each scene starts with an action, tensions rise, and it ends with a reaction.

See also

Dramatic structure Dramatic structure (also known as dramaturgical structure) is the structure of a dramatic work such as a book, play, or film. There are different kinds of dramatic structures worldwide which have been hypothesized by critics, writers and scholar ...
Literary element A literary element, or narrative element, or element of literature is an essential characteristic of all works of written and spoken narrative fiction. Literary elements include plot, theme, character and tone. In contrast, literary techniques a ...
Scene (drama) A scene is a dramatic part of a story, at a specific time and place, between specific characters. The term is used in both filmmaking and theatre, with some distinctions between the two. Theatre In drama, a scene is a unit of action, often a s ...
Theatrical scenery Theatrical scenery is that which is used as a setting for a theatrical production. Scenery may be just about anything, from a single chair to an elaborately re-created street, no matter how large or how small, whether the item was custom-made or ...



*Bickham, Jack M (1993). ''Scene and Structure: How to Construct Fiction with Scene-By-Scene Flow, Logic and Readability''. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. *Gardner, John (1983). ''The Art of Fiction''. New York, NY: Vintage Books/Random House. *Ingermanson, Randy and Peter Economy (2010). ''Writing Fiction for Dummies''. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing. *Klaassen, Mike (2016). ''Scenes and Sequels: How to Write Page-Turning Fiction''. Pensauken, NJ: Bookbaby. *Lukeman, Noah (2006). ''A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation''. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company. *Marshall, Evan (1998). ''The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing''. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. *Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). ''Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing''. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. *Obstfeld, Raymond (2000). ''Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes''. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. *Rosenfeld, Jordan E (2008). ''Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time''. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. *Scofield, Sandra (2007). ''The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer''. New York, NY: Penguin Books. *Swain, Dwight V (1965). ''Techniques of a Selling Writer''. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. {{ISBN, 9780806111919 Narratology Fiction Plot (narrative)