Writing a SEQUEL (and I’m not talking Book #2)

I’m back in the saddle here in MBT…(I am required to use cowboy terms as long as I have a COWBOY book on the market. That’s just way it is…*grin*).

Seriously, I feel so out of it since taking off to Arkansas (but if you want to see a picture of me and Rach and the gang, it’s up on my website www.susanmaywarren.com). Anyway, last week Rachel took up the reins and posted on writing a SCENE. Great job, Rach!

This week we’re going to continue with crafting our scenes by talking about the other half of a scene (a SEQUEL) which is also technically a scene, but a different kind of scene. We’ll also talk about what action to put into your scene, how to decide what pov your scene should be in and a few secrets about making a scene strong. It’s all a part of moving our Hero along in this first step on his journey – the Call to Adventure!

Okay – you know what a SCENE is — it’s an active event where there is a GOAL, a CONFLICT, and a DISASTER. Ideally, at the end of the Scene, your character should be faced with a choice of some kind, some dilemma they have to solve.

For example, I just finished “The Ultimate Gift” (a crying, slightly sappy movie for the entire family), and there are some wonderful SCENES, where the hero has to choose to fulfill his grandfather’s requests and maybe receive a reward, or turn his back on the entire project.

A SEQUEL happens after a SCENE. It can be short, the beginning of another SCENE, or it’s own 1200+ word “scene.” A sequel builds on the information/events of the previous scene and has three components: Reaction, Dilemma, Decision.

We need to give our readers time to deal with the ramifications of what has just occurred in the scene – thus, our character must process his/her current state. This is the REACTION phase of the Sequel. Often it helps if they can also reiterate the stakes, and what their motivations are.

Then, they take a look at their options, and state the DILEMMA before them. Should our hero pursue the prize, or return to the life he knows? Should Frodo give up the ring to the able-bodied Elves, or carry it himself to Mt. Doom? Stating the dilemma helps the reader get inside the mind of the main character, and carry the burdens with him.

Finally, the hero must make a DECISION. It needs to have sufficient motivation, and of course risk, but if he should succeed, there must also be adequate rewards to risk the decision. Once the decision is made, then he moves forward into the next SCENE.

For each pov character, for each story thread, there should be interlacing Scenes and Sequels. Some clients have asked me: Does every Scene have to be immediately followed by a Sequel? Not necessarily, if the action is fast, and tumbling over each other, but at SOME point, the reader and hero much stop and gather their horses, count their ammo and figure out what to do next.

And, of course, the faster the story, the shorter the sequels. But they do need to be there, or the reader will forget WHY they’re on the journey at all.

Tomorrow we’re going to talk about how to decide the substance and action, even dialogue that should go into your scenes!

Yee haw!

Writing a Scene

Today we’re going to talk about writing a scene.

So far, MyBookTherapy has covered our protogonist’s fears, the inciting incident and the opening hook. Now we want to put it all into a Scene. Tomorrow we’re going to talk about Sequels – the story element following a Scene.

Three major components make up a great scene.

Goal. Conflict. Disaster. Of course, things like motivation and tension are also viable parts.

When you’re trying to formulate and design a scene, first think of your protagonist’s goal in the scene. Is she trying to convince her boss to let her take a hard case? Is she calling her boyfriend to break a date? Is this scene best written in her point of view?

I had a scene in Love Starts With Elle where Elle’s faced with a surprise from her past. I wrote the scene from her Point of View the entire book UNTIL I hit the rewrites. I changed to the Hero’s POV. Why? He had the most to lose.

Having the most to lose really set up the Hero’s goal – to discover his own feelings, to interject them somewhat into Elle’s life. It created GREAT conflict because the Hero, Heath, disagreed with Elle’s handling of the situation.

The disaster? Elle didn’t do what the Heath wanted her to do. 😉

Let’s talk more about Conflict. Each scene must have conflict. Are the characters getting along too well? Chances are you’re boring the reader. Now, don’t create melodrama. But instead of making the best friends get along, let them be in conflict.

Back to my scene with Elle. When this surprise from her past shows up, Heath gets his back up. In the original scene I wrote from Elle’s POV, he was a bit to understanding and cooperative. So, I had him speak up, interject his opinion. This surprise is messing up his own plans, taping the fears of his own heart.

Read your latest scene. How can you rewrite it with conflict in mind? Can you back up a few pages or chapters and interject a true conflict that will carry through the rest of, or most of, the book?

On to Disaster. Consider ending each scene with some sort of protagonist disaster. Again, we’re not looking for melodrama. Every time I try to throw in one of those kind of twists, my editor-husband always calls me on it. Don’t have “Jill” riding a horse then suddenly… gasp… a space ship lands on them.

Back to Elle and Heath, the scene ended in disaster because Elle left Heath angry and disappointed. But she had something more devastating to attend.

Think of your scene. How can you end it in a way where your protagonist(s) – hero or heroine – are moved farther away from their goal.

Heath wanted to spend time with Elle. The “surprise guest” ruined his plan, thwarted his goal.

Part of creating good conflict and disaster is to know your story, know your characters, know your overall goals, conflict and motivation of the story.

Hope over to Voices and post your scenes!

Hook Em Dano Winners!

Thanks to everyone who posted their hooks on the site. Very brave and stellar.

We loved them all!! We truly did. It was so hard to pick.

The winner is…

“I felt nothing as I sighted my M-4 rifle on a distant point and maintained position, despite getting sandblasted by a putrid desert wind.”

Anastasia B. Congratulations. You are the winner of the gift certificate. We loved how you set the stage for your character. We were right there, we knew time and place. Putrid desert wind is a lovely line.

You raised the stakes with this line, “But a fierce evil lurked in every corner and culvert, whispering that if I couldn’t defeat it, I would be forced to join it.”

Now the reader is curious, wanting to know what force is after our protagonist. You raised a great story question.

We loved the imagery of “Only two days into my deployment, and already everything inside had locked down” because it gave us a time frame and we could see the protag’s emotional and internal struggle ramping up with what is clearly a physical, external struggle.

Wonderful job!

The runners up are:

“Edie Baxter shucked off her scrubs for the last time.”

Melinda Walker. Congratulations.

What we loved about this was the story question you raised. What does she have to tell her Daddy? “Even though Daddy wasn’t home yet, she glanced over her shoulder, then lifted the mattress and drew out the framed wedding photograph of Mom.” This is a great showing line, setting the stage and place and presenting the question.

“She held the picture against her and closed her eyes; it’d been too long already—she had to tell Daddy tonight.” Great imagery and emotion here.

The Clemson shirt gives us place. Also a notion of the protagonists age and education. Very good job! Melinda, you win the Susie or Rachel book of your choice.

The third hook we liked was:

“Aaysha Field pulled at her head scarf attempting to conceal the tears that trickled down her face as she gazed out the tiny window of seat 17A.”

Charmaine Contos. Congratulations.

This is a great opening line. We are right in the setting, we feel the emotion, and anticipate the external conflict.

“. . .hot sand blowing against his crisply pressed fatigues while he touched his fingers to his lips in a tender farewell kiss” is nice imagery and gives us place and setting.

The story question is raised about her young-bride life as she leaves her Marine husband behind. The internal and external conflict is on the rise. We can anticipate it.

You win the Susie or Rachel book of your choice.

To the others, we felt you had nice hooks and raised good story questions. These three just stood out.

Winners, send us your snail mails, and book of your choice.


Still working on it!!

We had so many wonderful HOOK ‘em Dano entries (a number of people sent them right to my email (booktherapy@susanmaywarren.com). So, our team of Agents are still narrowing down the pack – look for the winner on tomorrow’s blog!!

Thank you all who entered!
Rachel and Susie