Scene and sequel: a logical way forward

Posted: December 19, 2011 in Uncategorized
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How do you get some sort of logic into the structure  of your novel, so that the reader willingly suspends disbelief and reads on as if it were all happening in reality? I know we all have a plot, but structure is about where all the bits of plot go, and in which order, to make sense.

I once read a book by Jack Bickham that cleared this up for me once and for all. Honest. Out of all the things I might do wrong (and there are many), I actually understand this one inside out, so although someone else may disagree with my end result, at least I can tell them I knew what I was trying to do.

The book was Scene and Structure.

The time I first read it, I wrote some notes about this topic. The piece of paper stayed by my side for years, and now its content resides on my computer to be consulted whenever I am writing a book.

Bickham reckoned the basics of structure were as follows:


Notes adapted from Jack Bickham's book


It’s that simple. Now obviously, if you go get the book, you will find reams of fabulous detail about all the variations on this, and excellent examples. (Some of his detractors say it is dogmatic – I think he offers lots of provisos to justify his main stance).

For instance, in the sequel, there may not be time to think if the action is fast, or there may be no time to feel the emotion if things are pressing. But some time later, these bits will appear in the narrative. They may have happened at the time to the main character, but the pace at that point meant there was no time to tell the reader. Or they may not have happened and the main character later catches her breath and begins to feel and think, showing up how she’d come to her decision.

But this idea is a great way to review our work, and it’s worth paying attention to, even if, for your particular genre, things have to be tweaked a bit.

The thing is, there is a logical flow to this that carries the reader with it. Which means they believe what you’re telling them! That can’t be bad.


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