Last week I blogged about scenes, this week I’d like to talk about the sequels to those scenes.
If you haven’t heard of scene sequels before, be ready to have your mind blown, or at the very least, learn that there is another meaning for the word sequel in the writing world.
No, it’s not just a follow up to the first book in a series (which is something I’m currently editing my way through). A sequel in regards to scenes is a way to balance out everything significant that happens in your story.
You might already do this, you smart cookie, or you could be naturally writing sequels and not realizing it’s an actual thing writers do—in which case we can share a cookie—and the following tips for writing worthy scene sequels…
Asked And Answered
As touched on in Writing Tips For Great Scenes, the key to a good scene features (among other things)…
- Plot Advancement
- Character Insights
- A Goal
- A Cliffhanger Ending
What your sequel should feature is the consequences of these things.
- If you’ve advanced the plot, what is the reaction to the events?
- If you’ve offered a character insight, does it change the relationship between characters?
- If there’s conflict, what is the outcome of it?
- Tension between characters? How do they feel about it?
- Your MC finally achieved their goal? What is their reaction?
- The chapter ended on the cliffhanger arrival of a mysterious character. The sequel is where you bring home the reveal.
Simply put—your scene is the question and your sequel is the answer.
A Place To Breathe
Sequels are also breathing room. If you’ve been putting your characters through hell, a sequel is a respite, and then the quiet before the next storm.
Everything Has A Purpose
Every scene benefits from moving the plot forward and teaching the reader something about your characters, and sequels are no different. They should do these things and show the reaction/consequence/outcome of the events of the scene/s before it. If it doesn’t, re-evaluate the purpose of your sequel.
Look For The Pattern
If you’re a planner or a pantser who dabbles in a little bit of structure and guidance, alternating between scenes and sequels should be right up your alley.
Following a scene/sequel pattern will keep the reader on the edge (scene), tease them with some resolve (sequel), up the ante again (scene), give them a moment to catch their breath (sequel), and bring things to a head with the climax (scene), and the ending (final sequel).
Not every book has to follow such a strict pattern, however, and you may find that your story works better spacing out the sequels and hitting the reader with several scenes in a row instead. Decide what works best for you and your story.
Once you’ve worked out what pattern you’re going with, look at your pacing. An action story will need short, fast-paced chapters to keep the reader interested, which means more scenes than sequels. On the other end of the spectrum, a character-driven story will enjoy the breathing room and slower pace of sequels mixed with fewer faster-paced scenes.
If you’re worried you’ll throw your pacing off by slowing down the story just to add a sequel, know that a sequel doesn’t have to be a whole chapter. It can simply be a paragraph or sentence at the end of a scene.
The sequel is your opportunity to show the effects of everything you’ve caused. Killed the MC’s family? Got him fired from his job? Had him come home to find his dog has run away? The only way you’re a bigger monster than most is if you write these things happening and don’t follow up with their effects on the MC.
If these events were to happen and they aren’t addressed, either pushing the MC into action, making him grow as a person, or revealing his inner devastation, your book is about a character who has a run of bad luck with no lessons learned. That makes your story a bunch of random scenes, not a tightly woven plot.
Sequels that show the effects of your scenes is the string that pulls your plot together. It makes your book whole and ensures your characters are treated with care (no matter what you throw at them) and that your readers are respected. If you can pull that off as well as scene-answering sequels with breathing room, purpose, pattern, and pacing, you’ve definitely earned yourself a cookie.
— K.M. Allan