Advanced Storytelling


Scene and Sequel

Read the following excerpt from the book Writing Novels That Sell, by James Bickham. (pp. 106–107)

This, dear reader, is for me the heart of the matter: dramatic stucture.

People read novels to escape the reality of their everyday, humdrum, sometimes-depressing lives. They look for entertainment, thought-provoking ideas, colorful locales, involvement with the story people through their imagination.

To put it in a word, readers read for excitement of some kind.

To provide the reader with excitement, you have to have story to tell. You have to have good characters. You have to have feeling. But above all else, you have to have a storytelling structure that provides a lifelike reading experience.

Four characteristics of our experience of real life are:

    1. It is lived moment by moement, with no summary.
    2. It is lived from a single viewpoint.
    3. It is lived now.
    4. It is lived with the knowledge that what we do has results.

Therefore, it seems only logical that we would want to put as much of our novel as possible in the same kind of framework.

That's why we have scene: a component of the story that plays out in the story now, from a single viewpoint, told moment by moment, with no summary, and in a way so that what the characters do has dowstream impact on the course of the rest of the story.

A problem, however, immediately becomes apparent. If we try to tell all of our novel moment by moment, even the shortest tale will beome hopelessly long. Writing down an entire hour of your life, even a dull hour, wiht no summary of any kind might fill a volume. And in real life we sort of summarize by daydreaming, nodding off, or not paying attention for a while.

So everything in a novel cannot be a scene.

That's one of the reasons we have the other component of story, the sequel.

When we talk about scene and sequel, we are talking about a very specific structure and method of attacking the story material. So let's look at them one at a time.


Instructions for the Quiz

Answer the questions.