Yesterday, I talked about how you set up Scenes and Sequels (which we have now agreed to call Action Scenes and Reaction Scenes) when writing with multiple points of view.
Today, JD asked:
In the multi-POV situation, isn’t there often a cliff hanger of some sort that encourages you to read through the other POV characters to get back to find out what happened to Character A?
How does that fit in? Is the cliff hanger really a division of the setback? Then when you return to Character A, you finish the “Action Scene”, have your “Reaction Scene” and move into your next “Action Scene”? Or, is the cliff hanger just the end of the scene and how he gets out of it is part of the reaction and I’m just having trouble breaking it in my head?
I guess my question is, What is a cliff hanger and how does that fit into the A-Scene, R-Scene structure?
Randy sez: A cliffhanger is just a Setback in an Action Scene. The pattern of an Action Scene is that the POV character has a Goal coming into the scene. He experiences Conflict throughout most of the scene. Then at the very end, he hits a major Setback.
Please notice that the preferred way to end the Action Scene is by showing the Setback without showing the POV character’s response to it. The reader can see clearly that the POV character is in trouble, but then the scene ends abruptly. That’s a cliffhanger. It’s a great way to end an Action Scene.
Bonnie asked, regarding multi-POV novels:
In some cases, wouldn’t you have John’s Action Scene, then Mary’s Action Scene, then John’s Reaction Scene and then Mary’s Reaction Scene? In other words, all the scenes are still there, just interspersed between the other character’s scenes. Perhaps that depends on the scene, and how important the information in the Reaction Scene is — whether or not it needs to be its own scene or can be conveyed in Mary’s Action scene. I agree with JD about the cliffhangers.
Randy sez: Yes, you can do it that way. When writing a multi-POV novel, you just have more options than when you’re writing a single-POV novel. I’ve written both kinds, and there are sometimes reasons to go with single-POV. (For example, when you want to keep secrets from the reader, such as in a mystery novel or certain kinds of thrillers. Then, if the POV character isn’t privy to some secret, the reader can hardly blame you for not telling that secret.)
Keep in mind that in modern fiction, the Reaction Scene doesn’t get as much play as it used to. Modern readers like more action, less introspection. So it’s probably possible to have a novel in which there are NO Reaction Scenes at all. (I can’t think of any like this, but I think it’s theoretically possible.) But as I noted yesterday, even if you don’t write the Reaction Scene, you need to know what happened there.