Scene and sequel

Scene and sequel are two types of written passages used by authors to advance the plot of a story. Scenes propel a story forward as the character attempts to achieve a goal.[1] Sequels provide an opportunity for the character to react to the scene, analyze the new situation, and decide upon the next course of action.[2]


The concept of a scene in written fiction has evolved over many years. Dwight V. Swain, in Techniques of the Selling Writer (1965) defined a scene as a unit of conflict, an account of an effort to attain a goal despite opposition. According to Swain, the functions of a scene are to provide interest and to move the story forward. The structure of a scene, as described by Swain, is (1) goal, (2) conflict, (3) disaster.[1]

In The Art of Fiction (1983), John Gardner described a scene as having an unbroken flow of action without a lapse of time or leap from one setting to another.[3] Over the years, other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of scene, and to explain its use and structure.[4][5][6][7][8]


In addition to defining a scene, Swain described a sequel as a unit of transition that links two scenes, adding that a sequel functions to translate disaster into goal, telescope reality, and control tempo. Swain also described the structure of a sequel as (1) reaction, (2) dilemma, and (3) decision.[9] Other authors have attempted to improve on the definition of a sequel and to explain its use and structure.[10][11][12]

Proactive vs. reactiveEdit

Rather than viewing scenes and sequels as distinct types of passages, some authors express the concept as two types of scenes: proactive and reactive.[13][14]

Scenes and sequelsEdit

Swain defined, described, and explained scene and sequel as if they were separate entities, but then he explained that they must complement each other, linking together smoothly into a story. He went on to observe that

  • An author controls pacing by the way he proportions scene to sequel.
  • The peaks and valleys in a diagram of a story correspond to scenes and sequels.
  • Flexibility is important, versus a mechanical approach.[15]

Structural units of fictionEdit

The structural units of fiction writing comprise all fiction.[16]

  • The smallest units of writing are words, phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs.
  • Two or more paragraphs with some common purpose are referred to as passages or segments of writing.[17]
  • Scenes and sequels are specialized passages of writing. A scene is a passage of writing in which the character attempts to achieve a goal. A sequel is a passage of writing in which the character reacts reflectively to the previous scene.[18]
  • A chapter is a segment of writing delineated by a form of punctuation called a chapter break.[19] Prologue and epilogue are two specialized types of chapters.[16]
  • A chapter may include one or more sections, passages separated by another form of punctuation called a section break.[20]
  • Some novels, especially long ones, may be further divided into books or parts, each including two or more chapters.

Types of passagesEdit

Passages of writing may be classified into four groups: (1) scenes, (2) sequels, (3) passages that are neither scenes nor sequels, and (4) passages that include elements of both scenes and sequels. Examples of passages that are neither scenes nor sequels include fragments[21] of scenes or sequels and passages of narration, description, or exposition. An example of a passage that includes elements of both scenes and sequels is the problem-solving passage, common in mystery and detective stories.[22]

Types of scenesEdit

Scenes may be classified by their position within the story (such as an opening scene or a climax scene). A scene may be classified by the fiction-writing mode that dominates its presentation (as in an action scene or a dialogue scene). Some scenes have specialized roles (such as flashback scenes and flashforward scenes).[23]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Swain, p. 84-85.
  2. ^ Swain, p. 96-100.
  3. ^ Gardner, p. 59.
  4. ^ Bickham, p. 23.
  5. ^ Klaassen, p. xxii.
  6. ^ Obstfeld, p. 2.
  7. ^ Rosenfeld, p. 5-6.
  8. ^ Scofield, p. 12.
  9. ^ Swain, p. 96, 100.
  10. ^ Bickham, p. 50-51.
  11. ^ Morrell, p. 84.
  12. ^ Klaassen, p. xxiv.
  13. ^ Marshall, p. 61, 63.
  14. ^ Ingermanson and Economy, p. 168, 170.
  15. ^ Swain, p. 113-115.
  16. ^ a b Klaassen, p. 3.
  17. ^ Scofield, p. 12-13.
  18. ^ Klaassen, p. 2.
  19. ^ Lukeman, p. 159.
  20. ^ Lukeman, p. 160.
  21. ^ Scofield, p. xvi.
  22. ^ Klaassen, p. 81-82.
  23. ^ Klaassen, p. 23.


  • Bickham, Jack M (1993). Scene and Structure: How to Construct Fiction with Scene-By-Scene Flow, Logic and Readability. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0898795516
  • Gardner, John (1983). The Art of Fiction. New York, NY: Vintage Books/Random House. ISBN 0679734031
  • Ingermanson, Randy and Peter Economy (2010). Writing Fiction for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing. ISBN 9780470530702
  • Klaassen, Mike (2016). Scenes and Sequels: How to Write Page-Turning Fiction. Pensauken, NJ: Bookbaby. ISBN 9781682229071
  • Lukeman, Noah (2006). A Dash of Style: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation. New York, NY: W. W. Norton and Company. ISBN 9780393329803
  • Marshall, Evan (1998). The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0898798485
  • Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 9781582973937
  • Obstfeld, Raymond (2000). Novelist's Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 0898799732
  • Rosenfeld, Jordan E (2008). Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 9781582974798
  • Scofield, Sandra (2007). The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer. New York, NY: Penguin Books. ISBN 9780143038269
  • Swain, Dwight V (1965). Techniques of a Selling Writer. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 9780806111919