Scene, Sequel, and the Storygrid

Before I read The Storygrid, followed the Techniques of the Selling Writer, by Dwight V. Swain. He recommends having a scene followed by a sequel. The scene has all the action, the sequel is about character revelation.

Scene – Sequel – Scene – Sequel is like Action – Contemplation – (Re)action – Contemplation. It gives the reader a tension-relaxation cycle.

This reminds of Kurt Vonnegut, who said that every sentence of a story shall either advance action/plot or reveal character. A scene advances action/plot and a sequel reveals character.

Dwight V. Swain’s commandments of a scene:

  • Goal
  • Conflict
  • Disaster

Dwight V. Swain’s commandments of a sequel:

  • Reaction
  • Dilemma
  • Decision

Example: A guy sees a girl and asks for her number. She is hesitant, he is pushy, she refuses. That is the scene. The sequel: He feels embarrassed and thinks about his options. All options are bad (best bad choice).

Mapping Shawn and Dwight:

Goal: Rises from the Inciting Incident
Conflict: Progressive Complications
Disaster: Turning Point (no way back)

Reaction: Reaction to the Turning Point
Dilemma: Crisis
Decision: Decision that brings about the Climax

Dwight does not recognize Climax and Resolution. But they could come in the next scene:
Goal: Decision (results from the Crisis)
Conflict: Climax
Disaster: Resolution

A three scene sequence would cover all commandments. Mind that one could put three scenes into an important chapter, like the Global Climax or the Hero’s Ordeal.

I try to hold on to the scene-sequel rotation because it gives the reader time to catch a breath after a lot of action and I have a chance to reveal character, but I don’t manage all the time. Especially in the Ending Payoff, which doesn’t leave much room for introspection.
The way I do it currently: I try to have all Five Commandments in every scene and sequel. I noticed that Crises like to offer themselves for a sequel’s Climax.

Now, all this sounds nerdy, but it isn’t really. It just helps to keep the story flowing. Continuous action can’t produce a flow. Flow is wavy – up and down. Or think of the reader, scene: breathing in, sequel: breathing out. If a story gets too one-sided, e.g. too much action, or rigid, this may help.

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