Scene transitions – follow Scene with Sequel

I’m a big proponent of Dwight Swain’s Scene and Sequel concept because I’m a psychology major, and I’ve read a few books that explained why Scene and Sequel works so well psychologically in readers. It all makes sense to me that our brains are geared a certain way, and Scene and Sequel resonate with most people psychologically, which is why they’re so effective.

However, when you transition to a Sequel, make sure you keep up some type of conflict or tension in the scene. This is something Swain doesn’t mention, but Donald Maass recommends constant tension and conflict in order to keep the reader reading, and that applies to the more reflective Sequels in your novel.

The conflict or tension doesn’t have to be something major, but just something minor as a thread throughout the scene. It can even help form that rise at the end of the Sequel.

For example, in chapter three of Sushi for One, Lex has a Scene where she finally is able to ask this guy out on a date. In the following Sequel in chapter four, her cousin Trish is questioning her choice in men, and at the end of the Sequel, Lex makes a decision about how to make the date the best ever.

The tension in the scene comes from the fact that Lex starts off the Sequel calling a local businessman to ask him to sponsor her junior high school girls’ volleyball team. She’s trying to talk to the businessman while Trish is trying to get her to talk about the date she’s made.

The main focus of the Sequel is Lex deciding what to do about her date. The tension from the phone conversation and Trish trying to talk to her at the same time is a minor thing, but it makes the Sequel more interesting than if Lex had just been eating ice cream with Trish and discussing the date.

Go through your manuscript, and if you haven’t structured it with Scenes and Sequels, well, do that now. Yes, it will take a lot of work, but it’s worth it. When you revise your Sequels, find some sort of tension or conflict to add to the scene.