Thor Dark World Chris Hemsworth

How to Get the Most Out of Your Sequel Scenes

how to write sequel scenesPart 8 of The Do’s and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel

Sometimes just the mention of “sequel scenes” makes writers cross their eyes. Isn’t a sequel, you know, a followup to your first book? What does it have to do with individual scenes?

The answers to these questions are important, because the sequel makes up fully half of every scene and is crucial in creating deep character development, realistic cause and effect, and resonant themes. Today, we’re going to explore what happens when you neglect your sequel scenes, either by leaving them out of your story altogether, skimping on the cream, or just choosing the wrong sequels.

Scene Structure 101

Most of my regular readers are probably already familiar with the terminology of the sequel scene. But just in case you’re not, here are the basics.

The structure of every Scene in your story can be broken into two halves: scene (action) and sequel (reaction). (And, yeah, I apologize for the ridiculously confusing terminology; blame Dwight Swain.) Each of those halves are then broken into three sections apiece.

In the scene, your character has a (1) goal, which is met by (2) conflict, which ends in at least a (3) semi-disaster. This then prompts the sequel, in which your character (1) reacts to that disaster, ponders his new (2) dilemma, and comes to a (3) decision—which leads right into the next scene’s goal.

(For an in-depth exploration of scene structure, see my series How to Structure Scenes in Your Story.)

Most writers understand the scene half. Goal and conflict, baby! That’s the easy part. But sometimes, it can be easy to overlook the sequel—to your story’s detriment, as we can see in Alan Taylor’s Thor: The Dark World. Let’s take a look.

Where (and Why) Thor: The Dark World Fails to Deliver

Welcome to Part 8 of our exploration of the highs and lows of storytelling from Marvel’s popular movie series. Dark World was the first Marvel movie I saw in the theater post-Avengers, so to say I was highly anticipating it is a bit of an understatement. Walking out of the theater, I felt it was an enjoyable movie that had included all the elements I was hoping it would (Loki, Jane, Asgard, action, humor)—and yet, it hadn’t quite scratched my story itch. There was something about it that left me feeling unsatisfied.

Think I’m going to say it was because Dark World had weak sequel scenes? Head of the class for you!

But, first, the obvious highs:

  • I thought it was spectacularly gorgeous, one of the few movies where I noticed a decrease in visual quality from 3D (in which I viewed it the first time) to 2D.
Aether Thor Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • Jane gave a deserving Thor a good whack (or two) in the face, for not sending her a postcard from NYC. (I was hoping she’d throw her cereal box in his face, but, hey, this works.)
You Said You Were Coming Back Jane THor Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • The brother love between Thor and Loki! This was undoubtedly the best part of the film: the conflict between Thor’s wanting to trust the familial bond and knowing he can’t.
Thor Loki Success

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • More Asgard—and more Heimdall.
Heimdall's Eye Idris Elba

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • The Dark Elves. They were a super-cool concept, everything from their doll-like masks to their Kursed battle fury.

And lows:

  • The Dark Elves. They weren’t taken advantage of in any way, which is really no surprise in a movie as busy and thematically scattered as this one.
Dark Elves Thor Kursed

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • The thematic scattering. I’d argue that the heart of the Thor movies’ theme is family—specifically brotherhood. But neither of the existing two movies have gotten a chance to sufficiently explore that, mostly because Thor’s doomed romance with the mortal Jane keeps eating up the screentime.
Thor Dark World Jane Slaps Loki

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

  • And, finally, and most importantly: the characters do. not. react. For every beautiful, interesting, scary, heart-rending event, there should be a HUGE sequel scene. And… there’s not.

The 3 Jobs of Your Sequel Scenes

Writers sometimes get hung up on the advice that “there should be conflict on every page.” You might feel it’s time for your characters to sit down and have a chat about what just happened, but then you hear that advice in the back of your head and you start fretting. “Where’s the conflict in this scene? What’s the character’s goal? Gah, I love this scene, but are readers going to think it’s boring?”

Short answer: no, they’re not. Not if you set up your sequel scenes wisely.

Here are the three things you have to take the time to show in your sequel scenes.

1. Use Your Sequel Scenes to Explore Character

The action half of the scene is where the plot happens; the sequel/reaction half is where the character development happens. Skip the sequel scenes, and you can be sure you’re skipping the most powerful aspects of your character’s arc.

Sequel scenes—the reaction half of scenes, the scenes with no action and no conflict—are routinely some of my favorites as a reader and viewer. What a character does or experiences is only interesting insofar as he reacts to it.

Easy Rule of Thumb: If he doesn’t react to it, it doesn’t matter.

Why Dark World Gets It Wrong: Think about how Thor and Jane never react to the fact that Thor’s mother Frigga died protecting Jane. Obviously, this is a huge event that should create ripples in both characters’ lives and in their relationship. But we get nada in the film. The only character who truly reacts to Frigga’s death is Loki (which is yet another reason Loki is usually considered the more compelling character).

Frigga's Funeral Thor Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

How You Can Do It Right: Take a look at your scene structure. Does every action have a response period? Sometimes this will be a full-blown chapter in its own right; sometimes it may only be a paragraph or two. But everything that happens in your story must elicit a reaction from your protagonist and other pertinent characters. Otherwise, you’re cheating readers and cutting the emotional legs out from under your characters.

2. Use Your Sequel Scenes to Create Cause and Effect

Dwight V. Swain, originator of this approach to scene structure, wrote in his wonderful book Techniques of the Selling Writer:

[Your reader] demands that your character’s efforts have meaning. They must be the consequences of prior development and the product of intelligence and direction.

If you’re not using scene and sequel to create a tight weave of cause and effect, then what you’re creating is not a plot, but rather a random string of events. The sequel/reaction shows the effect of every scene/action’s cause. If you neglect either side of this dynamic duo, your story will start staggering around like a drunken pirate with one leg.

Cause and effect creates realism, it creates consequences, it enables suspension of disbelief. Without these elements, it becomes harder and harder to keep readers invested in the story world you’re trying to create.

Why Dark World Gets It Wrong: In this film’s defense, it did have a lot of ground to cover in just two hours: Jane’s illness, Loki’s fate, Frigga’s death, Odin’s revenge, Darcy’s intern, the Dark Elves’ backstory, etc. But, ultimately, that’s no excuse for skimping on the aspect of scene that is most important for grounding a story. How much better would all of these subplots have been with a little more grounding?

One of the best sequel scenes in the entire movie is the early scene when Lady Sif speaks to a melancholy Thor outside the tavern where his friends are celebrating their recent victory. It explains his emotional landscape and anticipates his motivation in the next scene for pursuing Jane—and it develops the minor character Sif into the bargain. How much better would the film have been with a few more such scenes?

Thor Sif

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

How You Can Do It Right: Pay attention to the six-part weave of each Scene—goal, conflict, disaster, reaction, dilemma, decision. When each of these pieces are in place, it allows each moment in your story to build seamlessly into the next. You’ll never have to wonder if you’ve written an unnecessary scene. If it fails to fit into one of these six parts, you’ll know it’s unnecessary.

3. Use Your Sequel Scenes to Advance Theme

If the most important character development happens during your sequel scenes, then so does your thematic development—if only because character and theme must be developed side by side. Without quiet moments of reflection, irony, and subtext, the theme languishes on the back burner.

Theme lives in the spaces between your character’s actions. It lives in your story’s subtext. And subtext arises perhaps most richly in scenes of reaction, when your characters are exploring the consequences of their actions and the motivations that will prompt their next move.

Why Dark World Gets It Wrong: I love Jane Foster. She’s a thoroughly delightful character: funny, perky, sweet, feminine, brilliant, determined, awkward. But she’s just plain in the way of the theme. These movies should never have been conceived as love stories. Their burning heart has always been Thor’s difficult relationship with his adopted brother Loki.

It’s interesting that Loki actually does get the most interesting and complete sequel scenes in this movie (such as after he and Thor have escaped Asgard and share a fight and a few semi-fond memories while Jane is—conveniently—passed out in the bottom of the skiff). But because he got relegated to a subplot that’s squished in between all the story’s more action-oriented elements, the theme is ultimately just as short-changed as he is.

Thor Loki Dark World

Thor: The Dark World (2013), Marvel Studios.

How You Can Do It Right: Your character’s reaction scenes are the perfect place to explore the Lie/Truth dynamic that is driving his inner conflict and evolving his personal development. This is where the arguments come to the fore, where the Mentor can advise, the Contagonist can tempt, and the protagonist can begin to see things more clearly.

Because proper scene structure affects every part of your story—plot, character, and theme—you can see how important it is to make sure you’re balancing it in every chapter of your story. Learning to write effective and well-placed sequel scenes might even spell the difference between a good book and a great book.

Stay Tuned: Next week, we’ll talk about how Captain America: The Winter Soldier used theme to knock its character development out of the park.

Previous Posts in This Series:

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you have a reaction / sequel scene following the most recent action segment in your story? Tell me in the comments!

Sign Up Today

hwba sidebar pic

Sign up to receive K.M. Weiland’s e-letter and receive her free e-book Crafting Unforgettable Characters: A Hands-On Introduction to Bringing Your Characters to Life.

About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Michael Saltar says

    Thanks for sharing more insight on why this film doesn’t work.

    My issue with both Thor movies was with Portman’s character. She felt like the protagonist, and thus our point of contact with this fantastical world, but she felt like a less-than-proactive protagonist. I was frustrated thinking, what’s the point of having her in the film at all? It never seemed like anything she was doing was really integral to the plot. At least passive protagonists in classics — if they only serve to narrate the story about someone else (Great Gatsby, Sophie’s Choice, etc.) undergo profound development that means something. (I guess if you don’t have those reaction moments, it’s difficult to develop anything.)

    Then here you point out the story is really about Thor and Loki, which now confirms my feeling: the writer shoehorned Natalie in. Bummer.

    In contrast: Iron Man 2…Consider Tony and Pepper when he gives her the company while struggling to hide the fact he’s dying — all with a supertext layer of humorous banter. Best scene of the Avenger universe. Pepper is quite necessary, increasingly proactive, and reactive.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I think this is the primary reason Natalie Portman declined appearing in the third Thor movie. That makes me sad in some respects, but it also gives me hope that the movie may be able to stay on track better thematically.

      • Michael Saltar says

        Can’t say I blame her.

        I hope you’re right about #3.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I do have my doubts about their getting the theme right again, since it sounds like the focus relationship with be Thor and Banner (not Thor and Loki). But that has the potential to be interesting in its own right, especially since it’s totally unexplored ground.

    • By far the most helpful piece I’ve read from you!

  2. Kate Flournoy says

    Mm, yes, this is a wonderful post. Thanks, Katie. I never broke scenes up like that, but now that you mention it I do see that that’s how they work. And step-by-step checklists are always helpful… provided I don’t have to come up with them by myself. XD
    *sigh* INTJs are so convenient. 😉
    When you break scenes up into scene and sequel like that, it makes me realize that if you only have the scene, you only have the least important half of the story. The scene part (the action) only matters in so far as it relates to the sequel (development of characters/theme). Otherwise people don’t care— stories are for learning and feeling, not just visual amusement. And that’s all action is without internal consequences of some kind or another.

    Done with my mini-rant now. 😉

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Exactly! Sequel may seem like the “weaker” half on the surface, but it totally isn’t. You can (arguably) write a much better story with weak scenes and strong sequels than vice versa. (In fact, that’s exactly what a lot of literary fiction is.)

    • Michael Saltar says

      Yep. Drama isn’t the event. It’s how we feel about the event.

    • You know, although I’m always a little sorry to air my MBTI obsession, this post makes me think that one way of approaching the scene/sequel division is shifting cognitive functions. You achieved your goal (Te), but at what emotional cost (Fi)? You finally emotionally connected with another character (Fe), but what are the real implications of what is going on (Ti)? Just another thought about how the scene/sequel division is an opportunity to show different facets of a character. And, it’s natural for anyone to step back and look at what just happened from a different perspective.

      • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

        Ah, that’s awesome! I’ve never thought of it that way. That’s fabulous! Never be sorry to connect MBTI to story theory around here. 😉

  3. This is EXACTLY what my WIP needs. I am so happy right now! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. KM – Your writing advice just keeps getting better and better and clearer and more focused. And it was great to begin with!

    This is EXACTLY what I needed to read this morning. I’m writing my first draft of a story and I JUST figured out my theme and was pondering how I was going to go fit it in, because I can tell it’s missing. It’s in my mind, but it’s not on the page.

    And this is my answer. Sequels, of course! I’ve been neglecting sequels.

    Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Honestly, once you figure out sequel scenes, a larger world opens up to you. It’s so exciting! So I kinda envy you stepping out into that. 😉

  5. Tom Youngjohn says

    I’m just loving on Dwight V. Swain, for a few weeks now.

  6. Katie, I have to agree with JA Andrews. Your posts are wonderfully informative and refreshing. Using existing examples in movies (and books) is a huge bonus that is sadly lacking in most other sources of writing advice. It makes everything so much clearer.

    I’m almost finished reading “Structuring Your Novel,” jotting down notes AND ideas along the way. It’s been a huge eye-opener. Between that and your articles I’m getting really pumped about revising my WIP. Thank you!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying the blog–and the book. 🙂 Makes my day to hear they’ve been useful!

  7. goal, conflict, semi-disaster, react, dilemma, decision

    I need to find a way to pin that at the top of Word

    I believe I’m doing fairly well, but I may not be consistent. If that reminder’s always there to glance at it’ll be easier.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Since I’m an outliner, this is something I always work out in the prep phase, so I can make sure each scene I’m building is working itself into a seamless pattern.

      • I’ll outline the details of each scene as I get to it, but if the list of steps only exists inside my head I may forget one or more (until I’ve repeated it thousands of times!) If my wife tells me more than two things to buy at the store, I tell her to write it down.

    • Try an older technology: sticky notes, ink and scissors

    • You COULD have it tattooed on your finger

  8. Hollywood loves sequels of big movies. They see dollar signs. A lot of times, though, that’s all they see. They put the characters in the first movie in the second (and sometimes third) movies, but don’t give them much to do that they didn’t already do in the first one. There are some exceptions, such as Godfather Part II and the original Star Wars trilogy (the less said about the prequels and Jar Jar Binks, the better), but usually sequels get worse as the series goes on. One thing that would be helpful to read about is, if you know you’re writing another book, should you end on a cliffhanger, or resolve each book? The end of Star Wars had the presentation of medals to Luke and Han. The end of Empire Strikes Back had a cliffhanger ending where everyone was going to meet on Tattoine. Also, the end of Back to the Future Part II had Marty reading a letter that Doc Brown was alive and well in 1885. I’m not sure which is best.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Although that isn’t the type of sequel I’m talking about ;), I agree. As for how to end books in a series, we must be careful with cliffhangers. We want to hook readers into the next book, but we also don’t want to pointlessly irritate them with loose ends. My preferred approach is to make sure all the loose ends are tied off for the *individual* book, then use cliffhangers for the overarching series’ conflict to pull readers into the sequel.

  9. Ugh, I’ve always hated it when a movie (it seems to be particularly prevalent on-screen) omits the reaction part of a scene. It just leaves everything hanging. Like, one character will reveal something shocking to the other, and immediately it cuts away to another scene. Or they ask a question and it cuts to the next scene without an answer. It definitely takes away from the realism; we’re supposed to be experiencing things along with the characters, and the crucial part where they react (and we along with them) is entirely missing. It makes it fall so flat.
    This is actually one of the few story structure things that I’ve known for quite a long time, long before I started thinking about story structure; it seems like it would be more obvious, actually 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, sadly, it’s a trend in action movies. The *best* action movies are always those that are smart enough not to neglect the reaction half of the scene.

  10. Max Woldhek says

    “Jane gave a deserving Thor a good whack (or two) in the face, for not sending her a postcard from NYC. (I was hoping she’d throw her cereal box in his face, but, hey, this works.)”

    I kinda hated that, just like I hated the “shoot the shield” scene in The First Avenger. I don’t find physical violence in a relationship (unless, of course, both parties are totally into that kind of thing) okay at all. And pop culture still seems to think that it’s hilarious when it’s a woman who’s being physically violent towards a man.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I don’t disagree with you, although I felt they pulled that scene off much more humorously than Peggy’s. It worked for me.

    • I’d like to see a satire of that. Maybe a woman is violent towards, oh, say … a BABY!!!!!

      Do you suppose all the public members who thought it was hilarious, would suddenly get the point?

      • Or maybe a man … in a wheelchair?

      • False equivalencies.

        She may have struck him, which meets the technical definition of ‘violence’ – but it’s Jane. vs Thor. No way she was ever capable of physical injuring him. It was something to get his attention, an insult.

        It’s funny because it was someone weak striking out against someone strong, with no apparent fear – and then to see his reaction to how she basically put her self on a level equivalent to him, a god.

  11. Michael Saltar says

    Here’s another of my favorites, again from Iron Man 2: we’re in Tony’s now former office. He’s just had his adorable little spat with Pepper and strawberries, and found his genius self bested by a triple-agent Latin scholar.

    No one left to stroke his ego here in this empty office.

    No one except…that stupid perpetual motion desk ornament (symbolic—too late to stop what’s in motion). He burns screen time attempting to stop the annoying thing. Futile.

    He ambles to the corner where something catches his eye. Down go the strawberries, missing the trash can. Now he enters the B story with his father’s dusty Expo model.

    I’m going to guess what I descibed above is a sequel scene—the reactive space-to-feel for Tony. It’s one of those moments I would have expected the editor to leave on the cutting room floor, but love that it survived the process.

    Still another: remember J.J. Abrams’s TED talk in which he asserts sequel (movies) fail because they “rip off the wrong stuff?” I believe he’s saying the right stuff are those sequel scenes. He demonstrates by showing a scene from the thriller JAWS. We’re at a kitchen table in which the protagonist asks his little boy for a kiss.

    “Why?” the child asks.

    “Because I need it.”

    What do you think? Do these two example meet the requirements of a sequel scene?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, yes, and yes. Love that quote from Abrams, and totally agree. What are literal sequel movies other than, essentially, a sequel scene to the original? That’s why, when sequels are done really well, they’re often even better than the first movie. It’s the reactions, the complications, and consequences that make stories interesting, on both the overall scale and the smaller, scene by scene, scale.

  12. Great post as usual, K.M.! Do you think the “goal, conflict, disaster, reaction, dilemma, decision” chain applies to every genre? It works great in action, of course, but is there necessarily a “disaster” in every scene of a romance novel, or a coming-of-age story? Would we just have to make the term “disaster” a relative one, in the context of the protagonist’s world?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yep, definitely applies, regardless of genre. The disaster is always nothing more or less than a disruption (or semi-disruption) of the character’s scene goal. So, in a romance, if the hero’s scene goal is to score a date with the heroine, and she says “no,” that’s a scene disaster. The comparative size of the disaster (e.g., hurt feelings vs. blown up White House) may vary from genre to genre, but every manifestation is still viable.

      • Makes sense, thanks!

      • Surely the character’s scene goal is SOMETIMES achieved?

        Dorothy DOES meet the wizard … but …

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Yes, you’ve described exactly the “yes, but” partial scene disaster. What’s important isn’t so much that the character is completely stymied, but that new complications push him sideways, instead of allowing him to advance straight forward toward his goal.

  13. Great analysis as usual. Thor: The Dark World is the very definition of a popcorn flick. It’s fun, and somewhat re-watchable as something in the background, but there isn’t much weight to it. Only Loki’s reaction to his mother’s death and the brief scene between Thor and Sif bring any dramatic weight to the whole movie. Maybe the main problem is that it’s a bit overstuffed. Cutting down on Jane’s fellow scientists a bit and shortening some of the action scenes not as central to the plot to make room for sequel scenes would have helped a lit.

    On an unrelated note, I just finished reading Storming and really enjoyed it. My blog review should be up sometime tomorrow (Tuesday).

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yeah, “overstuffed” is exactly the word for it. Which is a shame, because if it had stripped out about half its stuff, the remainder would have been twice as good.

      And thanks so much for the kind words about Storming! 🙂 I’m so glad you enjoyed it and I totally appreciate your taking the time to review it.

      • Michael Saltar says

        And if you guys thing THAT film was overstuffed, I can’t imagine what your good report on Civil War will be. What a mess… 😉

        • I didn’t think Civil War was overstuffed at all. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff going on, but it still remains focused on Captain America and his closest allies, and all the subplots contribute to the main plot one way or another.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Granted, it at a LOT going on and its execution wasn’t perfect. But I was really impressed with how well they tied everything in. The Russo brothers are a force to reckon with IMO.

      • Michael Saltar says

        And if you guys think THAT film was overstuffed, I can’t imagine what your good report on Civil War will be. What a mess… 😉

  14. Hi. I’m new to your blog. I found you through a link on Janice Hardy’s page. I just re-watched Thor: Dark World, thinking critically about it because of your lovely post. I think the biggest issue for me is that Loki’s `death’ comes too early. It feels like the climatic moment, but it is placed just before the climax. That leaves the final fight with the dark elves feeling a bit anti-climatic. (The stakes of `will the worlds be plunged into eternal darkness’ are smaller than the stakes of `will Thor and Loki be reconciled’ because when I glance outside I see lots of sunlight. (Admittedly, the Marvel Universe is a parallel one, but still…))
    I do get why they put Loki’s death where they did. It gives time for the twist of him not being dead. Maybe stronger sequel scenes would have fixed the feeling of anti-climax: Thor barely has time to grieve at all before he and Jane rush back to save earth, so you don’t quite get the sense that everything has become that much more personal for Thor which would have given more weight to the final battle.
    Also, the movie is really visually beautiful. I’d forgotten how much I like it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I agree about Loki’s death. However, I’d say its fundamental problem (and, ultimately, the whole reason it isn’t given suitable reaction time) is that it’s a false plot twist. The audience never really buys it, and even if they do, they’re quickly disillusioned. It’s always dangerous to give the audience an emotional viewpoint outside of the protagonist’s. Once we know Loki faked his death, Thor’s grief loses most of its punch anyway for us.

  15. I like to think of sequel as “the pause that refreshes,” to coin an old soft drink slogan. The gun barrels are smoking, the wheels of crashed cars from a chase are spinning, the fight wounds are stinging… the aftermath of the action allows time to take a breath, make new plans and move forward.

    I remember first learning what a sequel was from a speaker at a writers conference several years ago. She used an example from Jurassic Park to help illustrate her point. Remember the scene where those two kids run from the T-Rex in the park, and afterward they sit high in a tree and pet the head of a tall vegetarian dinosaur lunching on leaves? Whenever I think of sequel, I think of that example. It was time for everyone to catch their breath, including the audience, and for the characters to regroup. It clicked for me then and stayed with me ever since.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I like that slogan for sequels a lot. And the Jurassic Park scene is perfect. It’s like a piece of music when you have a “rest,” which then just makes the louder parts to follow all the more powerful.

  16. Maybe I just haven’t read a lot of writing reference books, but you’re the only novelist I know who constantly emphasizes the importance of reaction/sequel scenes. I was making my outline while reading your 5 secrets of story structure, and I had got it into my head that I need to end every chapter with action or revelation, and then you wrote about sequel scenes where writers should let their characters breathe and think, reflect, and react to the things that have been happening.

    I think sequel scenes are important parts of an action or fantasy film because they snap as out of the fantastical elements and grounds the characters in reality and reminds the audience that yup, still people. Still have feelings.

  17. I wish this sequel stuff would sink in. Things don’t calm down and give the characters a breather and time to think about whats happened until like chapters 7-8 or so. But thrn again the povs switch between the main (first two chapters) To the second character, back to the main and then one of the antoganists gets his own chapter.

    So I’m really worried about this. ?

  18. Hi. I enjoyed this article and I just have one question. When you mention a specific scene, you say “…it develops the minor character Sif into the bargain.” Is the bargain an archetype? I tried googling this, but came up with nothing, so maybe I’m reading this wrong. I assume you mean that she’s set up as the possible alternative to Jane. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this movie, so I’m not sure. Could you perhaps clarify? Thanks.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sorry for the confusion! “Into the bargain” just means “as a bonus.” The scene I’m talking about also gives us insight into the minor character Sif, which was a nice touch.

  19. Ahh, thank you sooo much, Katie! My sequel scenes are always very short because I feel like long, drawn-out recovery times aren’t vital to the plot, but my alpha readers are going crazy at all the action without any quiet moments. I’ve been attempting to do all the character development during the action of the scene. But now I know how to get the most out of my sequel scenes thanks to another one of your spectacular posts. Thank you!

  20. Here’s a question! Can you have two dilemmas in your sequel scene? So for example, the dilemma for one character is A and the dilemma for another character is B? We might not get the discussion of both (as we’re only in 1 head at a time…) but is it a) achievable and b) effective or should you split them into their individual scenes?

    I ask because I’m writing a series, so chapter 1 of book 2 to a reaction to the big thing that happens at the end of book 1, as well as setting up the goals, theme, etc for book 2. One character is focussed on one thing, the other is focussed on something else. They’re not conflicting dilemmas (just yet) but they eventually will…

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sure. Every character can have a personal reaction to events. It won’t always be necessary to be explicit about every character’s reaction or dilemma, but it can add dimension to a scene when you include them. But the different dilemmas need to contribute to a cohesion forward motion in the next scene’s goal.

  21. I struggle with the sequel part of scenes. I just can’t get my characters to react well enough, or for long enough, to anything. Thank you for this post!

  22. Hi, K.M. Just read your 10-part series on Scene and Sequel. Great stuff. I’ve read other works, too, including Swain’s book Techniques of the selling writer. However, I have a question. I see Swain’s work repeated over and over, yet I have seen no examples of Scene and Sequel in actual novels. Most examples of S&S are from movies, which is odd considering the blogs are aimed at novelist. I wonder if you can show any specific examples from published novels. You, know, to see how the authors actually developed the goal in the scene and the dilemma in the sequel.
    Would appreciate your help.


  1. […] for ironing out the kinks in my novel. As a big fan of the Marvel cinematic universe her Dos and Don’ts of Storytelling According to Marvel series (all posts to date linked at the end; more to come) frames story problems with examples I’m […]

  2. […] scenes, will slow their pacing too much. And sometimes these fears are well-founded. But without solid sequel scenes, a story will struggle, both because the entirely conflict-oriented pacing will founder in ironic […]

  3. […] transitions from one plot point to the next. This is a sort of sequel scene—and I’ll recommend an interesting article on that concept by K.M. Weiland—where characters discuss some bit of action (the bell not working, then the letter, then the bell […]

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.