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The page has turned. Pete, from yesterday’s post, is gripping the windowsill, watching in horror as his father drags away the lifeless corpse of a deceased man. Now what? What we just wrote was the scene in SCENE-IT.

Now we’re going to write what Swain refers to as the sequel. It’s the follow-up moment or scene. I disagree with swain in that this “sequel” must be a few lines. I have written “sequels” that have been several pages long. But what is a sequel?

Don’t think of it as the next book or movie number 2. Think of the sequel as the next step. It’s what happens in sequence. Pete just watched his dad drag off a dead body. The reader wants to know what’s going on with Pete now.

So, like scenes, sequels consist of three elements as well, according to Swain: a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision.

Pete sees his dad dragging the body, so Pete ducks below the window and nearly hyperventilates into his hand, trying to figure out what the heck just happened!

This is Pete’s emotional reaction to the disaster of the scene. He has to gather himself before he responds. This is a realistic character. Characters who do not react but just “go with the flow” are usually weak characters, unless you’ve cleverly designed a “go-with-the-flow” kinda’ character.

After the reaction, we have the dilemma. So Pete has nearly fainted from the trauma. Now he has to think through possible options for him to choose.

Pete tries to relax, and he fumbles with his cell phone, trying to decide if he should call the police or if he should go and investigate.

This is the time to highlight the dilemma. If he wants to investigate, then show us what he’s thinking. If he wants to call the police, make us feel his sense of panic. And remember…no broken cell phone signals if your character is within the city limits…because that’s just dumb.

The final portion of the sequel is the decision. What does Pete decide to do?

Pete wants to find out where his dad is taking the body, but instead he does what any normal panicked teen would do: he dials 911.

Pete is now making decisions that the reader can believe. He doesn’t try to save the day if he almost fainted from seeing the death of an unknown man.

So what’s next? How do we keep the ball rolling??? We’ll find out tomorrow!

5 thoughts on “SEQUENTIAL ORDER

  1. Ms. Nine

    Nice illustration of Swain’s formulas. Ever writer should read his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. To a lot of writers, scenes and sequel are the same thing.
    I hope you will be posting about motivation reaction units, too. I find your examples helpful.

    1. William Stadler Post author

      Thanks, Ms Nine! I really appreciate that. I intend to expound on Swain’s ideas, hopefully next week. But his book alone can truly help most writers – that’s for sure. I know I’ve learned so much from him.

  2. Pingback: Three Fave Writing Sites | carson craig, nascent novelist

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