For those of you just joining us, we’ve been discussing the fine points of Scenes and Sequels for the last few days. I have covered the basics in my article on Writing the Perfect Scene, but a number of questions have come up that need answering.
As an amusing side note, try Googling the phrase “Scenes and Sequels” and see what you come up with.
Just one request, if possible. Could you please show us an example from one of your books where you deal with one character’s Scene and another character’s Sequel at the same time? I’m a visual learner; I like examples I can study rather than just instruction.
Randy sez: Yes, I’ll be happy to do that. I’ll choose one of my books at random, DOUBLE VISION. I’ll analyze Chapter two, which has two Scenes and one Sequel.
Let me give you a little backstory. Chapter one starts out with our heroine, Keryn, being summoned to work on a Saturday for an emergency meeting. Keryn is CFO of the company and is romantically interested in one of the engineers at work, our hero Dillon, who is a very nice guy, a technical genius, but not socially adept. Keryn and Dillon had their first date last night, and it went OK but he and she have very different ideas of their relationship at this point. (Keryn has high hopes; Dillon is blissfully unaware that they even HAVE a relationship.) When Keryn arrives at work, she finds Dillon talking with the company CEO and with a hot young blonde airhead who appears to be overly interested in Dillon.
With that background, we analyze the next two scenes, both of which are Scenes, but told from different POVs.
Scene 1, from Keryn’s POV: This is a short Scene. Keryn’s Goal is to find out who this airhead is and get her to back off from Dillon. There is a short bit of Conflict in which Keryn learns that the airhead is a new employee for the company. Keryn is miffed at this, because the company is in financial straits and it’s her job to keep the books balanced. Why the heck has a new employee been hired without her permission? The Disaster comes when the CEO tells Keryn that the airhead is no airhead at all–she’s a brilliant biophysicist who has made a remarkable discovery. Clearly, she is just the kind of genius who might be able to interest Dillon in a way that Keryn never can.
Scene 2, from Dillon’s POV: This is a much longer Scene that follows immediately. Dillon knows that the company is having problems; his Goal is to solve the problem. The Conflict comes when the CEO reveals that one of their customers is backing out of a recent sale. The Disaster is that the company’s “angel investors” have set specific sales requirements for the company, and now those requirements have not been met. This means that the investors will refuse to continue pumping money into the company and it is almost certain to go broke. They are facing bankruptcy and layoffs.
This scene is at the same time a Sequel for Keryn, who is sitting next to Dillon not saying much. The reader knows that Keryn is dying to know who this blonde is. However, we’re in Dillon’s head, who is blissfully unaware of Keryn’s Reaction (jealousy) and her Dilemma (what to do about the blonde). So the content of Keryn’s Sequel is left for the reader to guess at, mostly. This is fair, because Keryn’s love life is NOT the main story of the book.
Scene 3 of the chapter continues in Dillon’s POV and it’s a Sequel. The Reaction in the group is fear at the possibility of layoffs. However, there is a possible way out. The blonde “airhead” is a recent Caltech Ph.D. named Rachel, and she has just developed the heart of a quantum computer that could save the companie’s cookies–once it can be shown to work. But Rachel needs help to complete the project, and Dillon has exactly the skills and the technical brilliance to do the job. The Dilemma is whether to tell the truth to the other employees (who will almost certainly start sending out resumes the instant they hear the company is in trouble) or whether to keep quiet and try to get the new device built before the next payroll comes due (at which point all hell will break loose when the company can’t meet payroll). The Decision is that Dillon will work around the clock with Rachel at a secret off-site location to see if possibly they can solve the problem before the whole company comes unglued.
Note that the above Sequel would be a Scene if it were shown from Keryn’s POV, since it’s a Disaster for her romantic hopes to have Dillon working so closely with hot-to-trot Rachel for the next few weeks.
Why did I write this as a Sequel (in Dillon’s POV) rather than as a Scene (in Keryn’s POV)? Simply because the main storyline is about the quantum computer. Keryn’s love life is a subplot. This early in the book, I felt it better to work the main storyline, even in Sequel, rather than Keryn’s subplot in Scene.
A side note: I used to work in a small high-tech company not too unlike the one in this story. I actually set the location of the fictional company right next door to the one I worked at. If my storyline shows some antipathy for “angel investors,” it may be because I don’t think they’re all angels.