A loyal blog reader has asked me how Scenes and Sequels relate to chapters. For those who need a refresher course in what Scenes and Sequels are (or for those who have never heard of them) you can find a nice summary in my article on Writing the Perfect Scene. So far as I know, the terms Scenes and Sequels were invented by Dwight Swain in his book Techniques of the Selling Writer.
So let’s say you have your story all broken out into Scenes and Sequels. Is each of these its own chapter? If not, then how do you fit them together into chapters?
The answer is quite simple. Scenes and Sequels are typically anywhere from 1 to 12 pages long. Mine average about 4 pages each. It’s rare to be less than 2 pages or more than 10. So I just string them together in chapters of roughly 10 to 12 pages long. That is, I just keep throwing in Scenes and Sequels until a chapter is “full.” Then I make a new chapter and start filling that. There’s no reason to sweat too much about the structure of chapters. Chapters really aren’t that important. The basic unit of fiction is the scene, and there are two flavors of scene: the Scene and the Sequel.
Incidentally, is anyone else tired of this ambiguity which we inherited from Dwight Swain? Scenes and Sequels are BOTH scenes (in the ordinary sense of the word). Swain chose to create the technical terms “Scene” and “Sequel” but I personally have always found it hard to explain that they are technical terms.
I’ve just finished writing up the chapter in my new book WRITING FICTION FOR DUMMIES on this topic, and here’s the solution I’ve tentatively come up with:
Dwight Swain’s “Scene” has three parts, a Goal, a Conflict, and a Setback. So I’ve taken to calling this a “Goal-Conflict-Setback Scene” and I abbreviate this a “GCS Scene.”
Dwight Swain’s “Sequel” has three parts, a Reaction, a Dilemma, and a Decision. I’ve started calling this a “Reaction-Dilemma-Decision Scene” and the abbreviation is “RDD Scene.”
In my view, this makes it a little simpler. Both of these are scenes. So why not make the names clear?
What do my loyal blog readers think? I have plenty of time to change this. I’d like to hear your opinion.