Scene Mechanics

Part of the reason I’m writing this blog is to document my process from zero to published. A big part of that is learning the intimate mechanical details of writing. What follows is some technical nuts and bolts (with graphics!) to permanently fix the concepts in my mind. If you’re not interested lifting up the hood of the ’68 Firebird 400 that is my writing career and dig in the grease, consider yourself warned.

The structure of a scene is one of those technical details that I knew I needed to know, but I decided to forget about it until it was absolutely necessary. You know, kind of like where the jack is in the trunk of your car.

My first indication that I had a flat tire was the comments from my writing group.

“I’m totally confused here.”

“Your POV seems correct but it feels like we’re in someone else’s head.”

“I think the paragraph will read better if you moved this part up and this part back.”

So I started digging around in the trunk and came across Scene and Sequel.

I think that every new writer will go through the exploration of scene and sequel at some point in their first few years of craftwork.  The original concept was created by Dwight V. Swain, in his 1965 classic, Techniques of the Selling Writer.

I honestly don’t think that many of the concepts would have made sense to me before I had problems with my writing.  I would have probably waved away the words like the pictographic instructions that come with Ikea furniture. “Yeah. Yeah. I got it.” Until you end up with a handful of mystery bolts and a table that would fit the decor of a funhouse, the damn directions don’t seem necessary.

I’m not going to cover the detailed instructions of Scene, Sequal and Motivation/Reaction Units. There are many, many writers out there that go into deep, eloquent detail. A quick search will turn up more than you want to read.

Go ahead.  Go google. I’ll wait.

Now that you know everything that there is to know about scene structure, I wanted to include my own minor contribution. I’ve put together a graphic that I’ve got hanging on the wall of my writing space to help remember all of the details you just read.  It’s not Ikea, but it does help me reassemble a scene after I put all the screws in the wrong places.

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