By: Maureen Fisher
This post is based on the concepts of Dwight Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer.
Last week, I focused on the basic building blocks of a story: Scenes. This week, I take the Scene concept a step further to discuss the premise that a story should consist of a series of writing constructs called Action Scenes and Reaction Scenes (also known as Scene and Sequel). Simply stated, an author can use a series of alternating Action Scenes and Reaction Scenes to build an entire novel.
(a) Action Scenes
As the title suggests, An Action Scene refers to a unit of conflict lived through by the character. This is where the external or plot-related events (as opposed to internal or emotional changes) happen. Action Scenes consist of three components: Goal, Conflict, and Disaster.
Goal: This is the protagonist’s agenda at the beginning of an Action Scene, and should be specific and clearly definable, the more urgent the better. A goal makes the character proactive, willing to overcome obstacles. The protagonist should not be a passive player, waiting for life to overtake him. He should go after what he wants. A protagonist who wants something desperately is an interesting character, even if he has character flaws. The reader will identify with him, root for him, cheer him on to victory.
Conflict: This is the obstacle or impediment the protagonist faces in order to achieve the goal. To state the obvious, an Action Scene must contain conflict. A protagonist must suffer, or at least squirm. Lack of conflict is boring. A victory has more value if the protagonist struggles to achieve it.
Disaster: Protagonist’s failure to reach her goal. As difficult as it is, we writers must deny our protagonist her goal. Foil her easy success. When an Action Scene ends in victory, readers no longer feel the compulsion to turn the page. If things are going well, readers tend to close the book, roll over, and go to sleep. To prevent the unthinkable, we must end the scene with a disaster (or apparent disaster, or at least a surprise). Back the protagonist into a corner, surround her with peril, and readers will turn the page to see what happens next. This is called a ‘hook’.
(b) Reaction Scenes
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Read the full article HERE!
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