SCENES AND SEQUELS
The novels I analyzed ranged from seemingly simple construction to those that appeared to be substantially more complicated, yet each one consisted of the following parts:
When I began my analysis, I expected that stories would logically begin with a scene, then flow to a sequel and then back to a scene, over and over again. What I found was quite different.
I initially assumed that the first chapter of a story would begin with a scene then flow to a sequel. Some novels have that structure,[i] but some novels begin with a sequel.[ii][iii]
I assumed that a sequel would follow each scene, as night follows day in real life. In reality, a novel may include a series of scenes, one right after another, with minimal transition between them.
I was surprised to see a multitude of fragments of both scenes and sequels. I also found an abundance of passages that were neither scenes nor sequels—or just the opposite, with passage that included components of both scenes and sequels.
Quite a few of the novels included multiple scenes early in the story as the character is charging ahead or responding to multiple events.[iv][v][vi] Often the frequency of sequels increased as the story progressed. I assumed that if an author used a prologue, that prologue would be structured as a scene, but Stephenie Meyer used a prologue to set up Twilight, and it is structured as a fragment of a sequel.
One of the discoveries I hoped to make was how scenes and sequels are used differently when the story is presented in first person rather than third person. I found no difference in the presentation of scenes and sequels, whether the story was written in first person or third.
When I first analyzed The Da Vinci Code, by Dan Brown, I promptly labeled it as the most complicated in structure of the books I had studied. Later in my analysis, I realized that Brown's use of scenes and sequels is consistent with that of the other authors. What makes The Da Vinci Code appear more complicated is the extensive cast of characters from whose perspective Brown tells the story, often with multiple points of view within the same chapter.
Scenes and sequels written in a multitude of variations comprise the bulk of the novels I studied. The arrangement of those scenes and sequels, together with fragments, passages that were neither scenes nor sequels, and passages that included components of both scenes and sequels varied considerably from one story to the next.
This article is an adaptation of an excerpt from Scenes and Sequels: How to Write Page-Turning Fiction, by Mike Klaassen.
Copyright 2016, Michael John Klaassen
All rights reserved
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[i] Brown, The Da Vinci Code, 7-11.
[ii] Card, Ender's Game, 1.
[iii] Flynn, American Assassin, 9-12.
[iv] Grisham, The Client.
[v] Demille, The General's Daughter.
[vi] Evanovich, One for the Money.