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I'm using the Scene/Sequel model to go from an informal outline of my novel to a list of scenes. In summary, during a Scene the POV Character has a Goal, encounters some Conflict, and it ends in Disaster; during a Sequel, the POVC has a Reaction to this disaster, faces a Dilemma, and finally makes a Decision.

I'm having trouble figuring out how this structure applies to a specific part of what I'm writing. As the Disaster of the previous scene, the POVC is declared a traitor by his superior, who will execute him immediately. The Reaction of the POVC is to resign to die; however, after some thought, his superior decides to let him live.

What happens with this second scene? It has the Reaction of the POVC, but the Dilemma and Decision of another, non-POV character. Should I ignore this breakage of the rules and go forward happily, because this is a tool that should help me instead of limiting me? Should I figure a way to merge this segment as part of the previous and next scenes, to follow a proven structure?

Or maybe I got the scale wrong, and all of these things I'm thinking of as "scenes" are actually small parts of a bigger scene with bigger goals, conflicts, etc?

More generally, should everything be a scene? Can I skip parts of the scene, e.g. have a Reaction, skip the Dilemma and the Decision, and have a new Goal - or another way to put it, can the Dilemma and the Decision take just a few words?

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2 Answers

I am no expert, but I do not think it is a hard and fast rule. As far as I have noted, the Scene/Sequel structure is used with the sole intention of driving the novel forward. This subsequent following of a Proactive scene (Scene) by a Reactive Scene (Sequel) is most of the time used to raise stakes.

In a thriller, the Reactive scenes are shorter because a thriller is generally fast paced. So you do have the authority to customize the paradigm. But certainly, do not do so to such an extent that it creates confusion and/or seem incompatible with the previous scene.

For your scene that you have described, let's plot it:

Proactive

Goal:

Conflict:

Disaster: Declared traitor.

Reactive

Reaction:

Dilemma:

Decision: resign and die.

And now here, if you insert a Proactive scene, According to me, there will be incompatibility. Instead, what i think you should do is, Followed by the decision of the reactive scene, give him the good news that he will not be executed and then insert a conflict followed by a dilemma and a decision and then continue with the paradigm. So it becomes this:

Proactive

Goal:

Conflict:

Disaster: Declared traitor.

Reactive

Reaction:

Dilemma:

Decision: resign and die.

surprise : Will not be executed

Conflict : But...

Dilemma : So the choice is difficult between... <- you may omit this.

Decision : hence he will. <-this sets the goal for the following Proactive/Reactive sequence.

Proactive ...

Reactive ...

hope that helps! :)

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+1 excellent post. I'll highlight your thriller point by adding: action books feel like action books because they tend to go from scene to scene, with very few sequels. Introspective literary books feel like introspective literary books because they're mostly sequels. You don't need to have a 1 to 1 relationship between scene and sequel. –  Patches Jun 25 '12 at 23:47
    
Yes. Essentally. And thanks! Appreciate it, @Patches –  Amin Mohamed Ajani Jun 26 '12 at 12:01
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Scene/Sequel is less of a rule, and much more like guidelines. If the guidelines don't fit your writing needs feel free to use some other technique that does.

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