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Scene and Sequel outdated?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Heliotrope, Oct 12, 2015.

  1. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    I just finished reading Donald Maas' The Fire in Fiction. I have also read his book Writing 21st Century Fiction, and have his Writing the Breakout Novel Handbook…. Obviously I really like what he has to say about writing.

    But, a few things have stood out to me, one being this comment in The Fire in Fiction:

    "There was a time when aftermath passages were considered essential to a novel. Even today, some fiction instructors preach the patter of scene-sequal-scene. The theory goes that after a significant story development, the protagonist (and the readers) need a pause to digest the significance of this new situation, to make decisions and gather resolve to go forward.

    I do not believe in this aftermath. The human brain moves faster than any author's fingers can type. The importance of any plot turn is, for most readers, immediately apparent. Mulling it over on the page doesn't add anything fresh. The readers minds are already racing ahead. In any event, I find that most aftermath is the easiest material in any manuscript to skim (or cut). It lacks tension."

    Thoughts?

    Here is a link to an interview where he mentions, again, that scene-sequel sequence is outdated.

    Interview with Agent and Author Donald Maass | Michael A. Ventrella
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
  2. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    I tend to go scene scene scene scene scene sequel, rather than alternating, but I think that reactions are important both from a pacing standpoint and from a "get inside the head of the character" standpoint. It's not that the readers can't comprehend the emotional impact of an event; it's that the readers need to see the character reacting emotionally to the event.
     
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  3. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I agree with BWF. Multiple patterns exist. Scene-scene-sequel, etc.

    But the subject is also related to writing try-fail cycles. A failure can naturally induce a need to reevaluate and digest. This doesn't always require a lengthy mulling over—just as a scene can be any length, so can a sequel. Plus, scene and sequel can be blended, with a scene starting out as a sequel then, after a decision is made, take up with new action.
     
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  4. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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    Hmmm. I don't necessarily follow the scene-sequel pattern, but I certainly find 'non-stop action' to be a bit dull. I think a story should be dynamic.

    I'm reminded of the movie 'Van Helsing'. I can't remember for the life of me if I made it all the way through that movie, but the pattern seemed to be scene-scene-scene-scene-scene-scene-etc. It never let up and suffered horribly for it, in my view. Of course, if this is the sort of thing you're after, then the advice makes sense.

    My conclusion is that if this is outdated, then so is good, solid storytelling.
     
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  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Umm... That's not necessarily how one uses scene sequel. Also I believe he's misstating things a bit.

    The sequel is a reaction to the outcome of a scene, whether that be a setback or a success with a setback, etc. The elements of a sequel are as follows.

    1 Emotional reaction to the outcome of a scene
    2 Examine logical options/actions
    3 Logical outcomes of choosing one of those options/actions
    4 Choose course of action. This sets up the goal for the next scene.

    BUT Numbers 2 and 3 are not necessary to make a fully formed sequel. They are optional depending on what type of sequel you have. Why? Because sometimes the choices are obvious. For example.

    Scene

    Goal: Find cave
    Obstacle: Don't know the woods and it's night.
    Outcome: Find the cave BUT stumble in and come face to face with a Grizzly.

    Sequel

    Emotional reaction: [email protected]
    Choice: RUN!!!


    If you want a resource that tells you exactly what a scene and sequel are and how to use them, I suggest this book. Elements of Fiction Writing - Scene & Structure: Jack Bickham: 9780898799064: Books - Amazon.ca

    Whether one consciously follows scene-sequel in their writing or not, the pattern is there because writing is about action and reaction and that's what scene-sequel is. There's no avoiding that. We all tend to do it instinctively.


    Also scene-sequel is much more sophisticated than just scene-sequel-scene-sequel over and over until the end. When you deal with multiple plot lines, each one will have their scene-sequel progression. So depending on what plot or plots your chapter is advancing, you can have two scenes in a row or two sequels. OR You can have something like this.

    Plot-A scene--> plot-B scene-->plot-B sequel-->plot-B scene-->plot-A sequel

    Then there can be interrupted scenes or sequels which are interrupted by either a nested scene or sequel. So you may have a plot-A scene begin in chapter 3 but get interrupted by a plot-b scene which plays out, so that the plot-A scene doesn't get resolved until chapter-5.

    Confused?

    Here's a link to a google excerpt of the book I mentioned above that talks about the interrupted scene.

    https://books.google.ca/books?id=wz...=onepage&q=interrupted sequel writing&f=false


    It should also be noted that a scene or sequel can be treated as a section of text much like a paragraph, so that multiple scenes and sequels can occur within a section of text like a chapter and not all of them from the same plot. So chapter 45 could contain a scene from Plot-A and the scene and a sequel to Plot-B all played out in continuous sequence of events/thoughts with no breaks in the action. Eg all those scenes and sequels could happen while having dinner with the wife.
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2015
  6. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    @Penpilot: Perfectly stated!
     
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  7. Philip Overby

    Philip Overby Staff Article Team

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    While I think there are obviously different patterns, the scene-sequel pattern is excellent for beginning writers, especially those who are weak at plotting. Like Penpilot said, I think many of us still do this unconsciously anyway. You could probably look at a lot of writing you do and see some patterns to how scenes unfold. Nothing wrong with that.
     
  8. I see scene sequel as a tool, a tool that can be used, modified or rejected as needed. Sometimes that is not the best tool for the situation. The skill is knowing when to use this tool and when to modify or reject it. From what I can tell the article mentioned above is an overstatement of the author's point.
     
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  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Thanks for your thoughts everyone! I agree about it being a tool. I think it is also true that it sort of comes naturally. I read an article that explained that it can even happen in a line by line basis:

    Example:

    Scene: The crumbling rock suddenly gave way and Simon found himself pummelled by a torrent of jagged stone.

    Sequel: Simon only had time to think crap before ducking and rolling into a nearby crevasse. He couldn't even begin to imagine how he was going to dig his way out of this mountain.

    *Crappy writing courtesy of me… but you get the idea. And I think that makes sense to me. But does that same sequence over and over and over become predictable? I can see how, though, if you just do scene, scene, scene, scene, you would eventually need to catch your breath? The japanese have a term called 'ma' which basically means 'space'… like when you are clapping your hands, there is the sound of impact, but also the space between. You have to have the space between in order for the sound of impact to mean anything….

    Thoughts again?
     
  10. Incanus

    Incanus Archmage

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  11. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    It's not the destination that matters. It's the journey. If I make the prediction that a story will end happily, does it matter if I'm right? I'll probably be right more often than not, but it doesn't matter, because that's not what a story is.

    In addition, if your writing is engaging, the last thing the reader will be thinking of is a pattern. They just want to know what happens next and how it plays out. When the reader's mind wanders and they start to notice things like patterns, it means the story doesn't grip them.

    And as I mentioned in my last post, you can write scene-sequel in a way that there is no discernible pattern to the story, unless you break it apart and analyse it like a scholar.

    A lot of network TV shows follow patterns. Take for instance the Law and Order series. Every episode is exactly the same. Only the details change. It's so prevalent and obvious that Robot Chicken did a spoof of it and showed you don't even need to know the dialogue to understand what's going on. But regardless of the pattern, millions of people watch.

    Here's the Robot Chicke spoof.

     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2017
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  12. Ayaka Di'rutia

    Ayaka Di'rutia Troubadour

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    I once started reading a book that had no introduction, and was scene-scene-scene-etc., with little to no let-up for me as a reader to digest the characters. I felt like I was dropped into the middle of a story, which middle should have actually been in the middle of the book. It was terrible, and I didn't finish it. Like someone before me has said, sequel allows for people like me to see how the characters themselves digest and react long-term to a scene.
     
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  13. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Eh, they both matter to varying degrees depending on what type of story you're trying to tell.
     
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  14. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    I think the final destination is important as a type of justification for the journey. A misfire can leave the reader feeling robbed or tricked, and neither is a good thing (unless tricked in a good way, I suppose.)

    But back to the subject of patterning....

    In most cases, no reader is going to feel bored with any structural pattern that actually exists unless the content is also patterned. I mean, for instance, that scene-sequel-scene-sequel regularity is not going to be experienced as regularity unless those scenes and sequels have other commonalities beyond merely being scenes and sequels. To borrow from an example Penpilot already used:

    Scene 1

    Goal: Find cave
    Obstacle: Don't know the woods and it's night.
    Outcome: Find the cave BUT stumble in and come face to face with a Grizzly.

    Sequel 1

    Emotional reaction: [email protected]
    Choice: RUN!!!

    Scene 2

    Goal: Find a place to hide from bear
    Obstacle: Don't know the woods and it's night.
    Outcome: Find an unused cabin BUT a troll has taken up residence


    Sequel 2

    Emotional reaction: [email protected]
    Choice: RUN!!!

    Scene 3

    Goal: Find safety
    Obstacle: Don't know the woods and it's night.
    Outcome: Find an armed regiment of the Duke's men patrolling the woods BUT they have been turned into zombies

    Sequel 3

    Emotional reaction: [email protected]
    Choice: RUN!!!

    And so forth. (The above example might work in a comedy or farce, however.....)
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
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  15. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

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    Lol, I was actually chuckling a bit reading that. Yes. I see what you mean.
     
  16. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

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    I'm suspicious of writing books that are prescriptive. Good writing is never outdated. In fact, with so many readers in the world, good writing will always have an audience. That audience may never find the book (marketing noise), but there is always an audience.

    So, foo on him and his outdated-ness. My only writing advice is to write. Then get feedback on what you have actually written. Advice on what you *should* write is like advice on what you should sing or should paint. OTOH, the advice in advice books is nearly always right for someone, at some point. So there you go. Or, as the sage says: one thing I know is, you just never know.
     
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  17. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

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    You can't leave us hanging like that! What happens next???
     
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  18. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

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    Scene 4

    Goal: Build own shelter to wait out the night
    Obstacle: Don't know the woods and it's night.
    Outcome: Creates lean-to in a copse of trees BUT giant spiders live in the trees and...wakes up.

    Sequel 4

    Emotional reaction: [email protected] It was all just a nightmare!
    Choice: See a therapist to get help with his recurring nightmares.

    Scene 5

    Goal: Use therapy to resolve his recurring nightmare problem, so he can get some rest and feel better at work.
    Obstacle: Believes psychotherapy is a false science and all therapists are sham artists.
    Outcome: Therapist tells him his dreams are a result of frustration with career advancement—OR might have something to do with the fact that he's a writer of speculative fiction.

    Sequel 5

    Emotional reaction: [email protected] He was right about therapists!
    Choice: Books it out of therapist's office, vowing never to return.
     
    Last edited: Oct 14, 2015
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