Writing a Compelling Scene Part 2 (The Sequel)

Scenes are the beating heart of any gripping tale, captivating readers with their relentless action and unyielding tension. Yet we writers often neglect the aftermath. When the dust settles, it’s time for the sequel to shine — the final part to writing a compelling scene.

What is a Sequel?

The gap between one action packed scene and the next, needs to be more than just an intermission. In Dwight Swain’s scene method, a sequel is the aftermath of a scene—an opportunity for characters to react to the events that just occurred. It serves as a bridge between action-packed scenes and allows readers to experience the characters’ emotional journey.

Step 1: Reaction

After the action winds down, protagonists must confront the visceral impact of their actions. This can be an emotional response, such as fear, anger, or relief, or a cognitive reaction that includes thoughts, memories, and observations. The key is to focus on the protagonist’s internal experience and delve into their emotional landscape.

Step 2: Dilemma

Next, challenge the protagonist with impossible choices: a dilemma or conflict resulting from the previous scene. This dilemma forces the character to make choices and confront the consequences of their actions. It can be a moral dilemma, an internal struggle, or an external obstacle they must overcome. Raise the stakes, rattle their moral compasses, and watch as they wrestle with the weight of their decisions.

Step 3: Decision

Push your protagonist to make a decision that propels the story forward. This decision can be driven by the dilemma they face, and it should have a clear objective or goal attached to it. It’s crucial to show the character’s motivation and the stakes involved in their decision-making process. 

This rolls back into the goal, conflict, disaster of a new scene where the protagonist will take proactive steps to achieve their new goal. 

The Perfect Ending to a Scene

By understanding Dwight Swain’s scene writing method and following his steps, you can craft engaging sequels that enhance your story’s emotional depth and maintain the reader’s interest. So, seize the opportunity to create scenes that leave a lasting impact on your readers. 

Tim Kane

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