Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Look at Scene Sequencing

Posted by Eileen Astels

In Chris Roerden's Don't Sabotage Your Submission, she addresses the concept of constructing scenes that follow a goal-obstacle-outcome sequence.

1. The Goal: Or some might consider it the protagonist's agenda for the scene, must be presented early in the scene for the reader to grasp onto. Once the reader knows what is desired, they'll either be rooting for it to happen, or biting their nails, praying that it doesn't. Either way, the reader has become invested in reading on. They begin to anticipate the possibilities and outcomes, and anticipation in anyone "creates tension, builds suspense, and maintains our addiction to adrenalin, all of which keeps us turning the pages." (Pg 152 of Don't Sabotage Your Submission by Chris Roerden)

2. Obstacle(s): Ah, these are the makings of conflict. And conflict is the life-blood of any good novel. You need to create compelling obstacles that cause external and internal conflicts for the protagonist. And you need to show your characters traversing these obstacles, growing and changing due to these experiences.

3. Outcome: Good or bad, you need to offer a defining moment that reveals the outcome of their desired scene agenda. This outcome, then, will spark the agenda for a future scene as the character continues to work toward achieving their story goal (which in turn, might be altered during the course of the novel, but be sure to keep the reader abreast of these developments so that reader anticipation is always present, driving them to flip those pages.)

If we write with this sequence, goal-obstacle-outcome, in mind, our focus will rarely get muddied. And as a result our readers will stick with our stories.

What creative ways do you present your scene goals, obstacles, and outcomes without it coming off as chunky, blatantly obvious, but yet present for the reader to grasp in an entertaining way?


Surrendering to Him,

Eileen

15 comments:

Jody Hedlund said...

Great article, Eileen! I just love getting these reminders as I'm writing! It helps to keep me focused on what I need to be doing. Thank you!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Focus saves us so much time, doesn't it? I need to harness it more often!

Jeannie Campbell said...

i totally agree. i'll hear some great tidbit of writing craft wisdom, totally relate to it, and then forget it when i'm in the trenches while writing. thanks, eileen!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Isn't that always the way, Jeannie. I figure the more I study, the more likely something will stick and I'll be using it without even realizing it. That's my hope anyway with all the writing self-help books I keep absorbing.

Jessica said...

Great article Eileen. I see what you mean now. I think that I was just so caught up in the book that I didn't pay attention to the purpose of each scene, but I can say without a doubt that each scene did have a goal, where the character had to meet with someone or do something that affects the rest of the story.
I think we mean the same things with our posts, just said it different ways. You're exactly right with this though.

Terri Tiffany said...

Very clear and very helpful to me as I construct my chapters! thank you!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Hi, Jessica. I'm glad I'm not nuts, after all. I think I understand what you mean, though, by it's purpose becoming evident later on. Like a puzzle fitting together. You see how the scenes had to happen in order to come to the end result, the STORY goal. Mysteries especially fit in this.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Terri, I bet you knew all this already, but thanks for the comment!!! :)

Katie said...

Thanks for the post! A very helpful reminder!

Cindy said...

Thank you for the post. I am trying really hard keeping that in mind as I edit and write lately. Try to progress the scene in a way that will be beneficial and relevant to the overall outcome of the book. These reminders and tips on how to do so are so helpful!

sherrinda said...

Awesome post, Eileen! Very clear and very helpful. My current chapter has drug for me and I can see what I need to do know! Thanks!

Georgiana said...

So true! I especially love obstacles to pull me through the scene, and cliffhangers at the end keep me turning pages. Thanks for sharing!

T. Anne said...

In my first draft I just write. Then I go back and reshape, remold. Reading novels in my genre a few minutes before I write helps keep me on pace as well.

Tess said...

Great thoughts going on over here. As writers, we should always be asking the questions : so what? why would anyone read on? what is the emotion fueling this?

Easier said than done, I am learning :)

Ran across your blog while hopping today..hope you don't mind the comment. You can find me at:

http://tesshilmo.blogspot.com

Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks for post. These ideas will also work in designing talks, such as sermons. I can see great possibilities for that. Preachers often get stuck in a rut using particular structure. These three ideas - "goo" (goal, obstacle, outcome) can ease us out of the rut. And I catch the irony of goo being a freeing agent!