The Anatomy Of A Sequel

The Anatomy Of A Sequel

In this post, the anatomy of a sequel, we discuss everything you need to know about writing a reaction scene, which is also known as a sequel.

The Sequel

In my first post in this series on writing scenes and sequels, I covered 10 things to remember about these storytelling devices. Please read the post here: Everything Writers Need To Know About Scenes And Sequels. In the second, I covered the anatomy of an action scene. In this post, I am going to cover the anatomy of a sequel (which is also known as a reaction scene).

To recap, novels are made up scenes and sequels. As I wrote in a previous post:

  1. Action scenes are ‘…where your characters act. They mostly plan, seduce, argue, escape, search, meet, talk, pursue and investigate in scenes.’
  2. Sequels are ‘ …where your characters react. They think, reflect, process, rest, accept, and make peace in sequels. Sequels are also used to establish setting, reveal backstory, and show theme.’

So, let’s talk about sequels.

‘Life is not so much about beginnings and endings as it is about going on and on and on. It is about muddling through the middle.’ ~Anna Quindlen

The sequel is used when the character reacts to their failure in a scene and thinks about a new plan of action. The character may be alone or with another character. This is the perfect place to make use of your confidant character.

Because we get bored when we spend too much time trapped in a character’s thoughts and feelings, we need to remember that sequels are shorter than scenes.

Sequels are generally 300-800 words long. There are roughly 30% sequels and 70% scenes in a book. If your book is 70 scenes, you will have approximately 50 scenes (action units) for every 20 sequels (reaction units).

Two Tips

  1. Show the character’s reactions through thoughts, body language, and actions if they are alone.
  2. If they are with another character, use dialogue, thoughts, body language, and actions to express reactions. 

Use the sequel:

  1. If the character’s reaction to an event is strong, for example, they are devastated, bitterly disappointed, furious, or grief-stricken.
  2. If the character’s reaction requires analysis or weighing of options.
  3. If the action scene is momentous or life-changing.

Remember that the sequel is cathartic. It gives the character and the reader a chance to rest and to take stock of what’s happened.

The Anatomy Of A Sequel

The sequel consists of four phases, in this order:

  1. The emotional. They react with their heart. They could feel outraged, angry, insulted, frustrated, or embarrassed.
  2. The rational. They calm down and react with their head.
  3. The decision. They decide what course of action to pursue to solve the new problem created in the previous action scene.
  4. The action. They set a new short-term goal that puts them on the path to the next action scene.

Example: Following last week’s scene where Hector found out that his daughter was ill, we move into a sequel where he has to deal with this news:

  1. Emotional: Hector visits his best friend and breaks down.
  2. Rational: They discuss what has happened.
  3. Decision: Hector decides that staying with his wife is the only option for now.
  4. Action: He calls his mistress, leaves a message, and heads home.

TIP: A sequel is ALWAYS followed by a scene. You should never have consecutive sequels. It is boring.

Look out for next week’s post: Perfect Scene Templates To Help You Plot Your Book

by Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this article, read:

  1. The Anatomy Of A Scene
  2. Everything You Need To Know About Scenes And Sequels
  3. 33 Fabulous Resources To Use When You Name Characters
  4. How To Structure Your Children’s Story
  5. 10 Dialogue Errors Writers Should Avoid

Top Tip: Find out more about our workbooks and online courses in our shop.

Posted on: 2nd July 2017