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May 20, 2020

Controlling Pace with Scene and Sequel

By Tia Colborne.

I want to let you in on a secret. The day I learned about the below writing tool was the day I understood how to create exciting and engaging fiction. It’s shocking that more people don't talk about it.

It's called scene and sequel.
Alternating between scene and sequel controls the pace of your writing. Every time you read a novel, you experience it. It's the combination of these two concepts that make up your entire story. All you have to do is alternate between activity and reflection.

A scene has three components and describes the action in your plot:
·      Goal- what your character wants
·      Conflict- what is standing in the way of your character reaching that goal
·      Disaster- what happens when the character presses up against the conflict

A sequel has four components and describes the character's emotional connection to the story:
·      Emotion- the character is emotionally affected by the disaster
·      Thought- the character reflects on those feeling
·      Decision- the character chooses a new goal.
·      Action - the character redirects their energy to a new goal or a new way of achieving their goal.

The activity of a scene speeds the story forward; the reflection of the sequel slows the story down and allows the reader to absorb the events. Every genre requires a different balance of scene and sequel. A crime thriller will have action-packed scenes and less introspection. However, the best books in this genre still have a main character with a solid connection to their inner monologue. The romance genre falls at the other end of the scale. We read romance to feel what the hero and heroine are feeling. We want to experience the joy of their Happily Ever After. Spend lots of time describing your heroine's deepest emotions.

Even short scene-and-sequel passages can have all seven elements. Here's an example:

Rebecca knew she should stop, but she couldn't be late again for work. (Goal - get to work on time) The light turned yellow. (Conflict - traffic is slowing her down) She pressed her right foot down on the gas pedal and sped into the intersection. She passed the point of no return just as she noticed the car coming in the opposite direction was halfway into her lane, trying to make a quick left. (Disaster- She is about to crash her car.)

Time slowed down. Adrenaline surged through her body as she gasped and gripped the wheel. (Emotion- The danger put her on high alert.) She thought of Ava. She'd just dropped her precious baby girl at daycare. Today would not be the last day she sees her. (Thought- She thinks of her daughter, the reason she must not get hurt.) She scanned the scene looking for a safe window to direct her car. Her subconscious calculated the risk factor of every scenario simultaneously. (Thought- She assesses her options.) She made a lightning-fast decision, then pulled the wheel hard to her left, managing to skim the back bumper of the oncoming car as it completed its turn. (Action- She decides how to avoid the crash.) She pulled to the curb on the side street. Tears filled her eyes as she thought of the catastrophe she'd just evaded. Her hands shook as she dialed her boss's number. There was a tap on her car window just as her boss picked up. A police officer stared down at her. (A new scene begins.)

You can see how the sequel leads right into the next scene. These elements draw us into the story and keep us reading. It's human nature to want to know what others are thinking. It helps us to know ourselves and understand the world around us.

Through this simple process, you can build a story that keeps your reader flipping pages. Once you've found this flow, nothing can stop you.


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About the Author: Tia Colborne
Tia Colborne is a writer living on the southern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. She’s up at 5:30 am writing with the birds every day before her family wakes up. Her current project is a memoir of her time spent living in Moscow as a cast member of 42nd Street - the Musical, the first American production to be produced in Moscow after the fall of communism. The ill-fated production played during the Moscow Theatre Hostage Crisis of 2002. It’s a story of cultural adventure, with crazy characters and deep tragedy.
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