How Do Plot and Scene Work Together? Series Conclusion

Let’s connect the pieces of plot, scene, and sequel.

Plot at its most basic level is your lead character’s goal and the journey to reach that goal. That journey is played out in the scenes and sequels of your story.

Scenes show the reader the individual steps your character takes to reach his or her goal and the setbacks along the way. Sequels bridge your scenes and present the character’s reaction—emotions and thoughts—to the setbacks, and his or her subsequent decisions and renewed action toward the final goal.

In your WIP, can you identify:

  • The beginning, middle, and end of each scene?
  • How each scene moves your plot forward?
  • Your sequels?
  • How your sequels move your plot forward?

For practice, look for the scenes and sequels in your favorite novels. Does some aspect of your WIP have you stumped? Share below.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

Dealing with Time in Sequels, Part 5 of our series

Unlike the scene, which happens moment by moment, the passage of time in a sequel is flexible. Here you can move quickly through hours or days (even months) in your story. What took 158 words as a scene can be written in much fewer words. I’ll take our last example, a scene, and make it a sequel.

Example: Marta searched her Excel file for the next group of potential investors to contact. She made phone call after phone call as she identified names, her temper rising with every conversation. Ten calls, and ten “no’s.” The clock on the wall read 3:30. She shut down her laptop, stuffed it into her briefcase, and tromped out of the office. She’d start again tomorrow.

I have sufficiently covered several hours in her day vs. the few minutes of one phone call I used in a scene. We see her emotional and mental state, and her decision and action (all the elements of sequel).

Questions? Ask below in the comment section.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

Dealing with Time in Scenes, Part 4 of our series

Time is a story element with which many beginning writers struggle. Whether your novel occurs over a period of days or years, you must lead us through that time.

In scenes, time passes moment by moment. This means we see the action as it happens. Let’s pick up the action where Friday’s sequel left off (Marta had reached for the phone).

Example: Marta flipped open her cell phone and punched in the number for Sam Casey, regional manager for Robbins Bookstores. Her fingers drummed the desk as waited for someone to answer the phone.

“Robbins Bookstore Inc. How may I help you?” the receptionist answered.

“This is Marta Chaplin of Chaplin Real Estate. I’d like to speak with Mr. Casey.” Marta tried to sound as official and confident despite her nervousness.

“Mr. Casey isn’t available. Would you like it voicemail?”

“Yes, please.” Marta sat straight her office chair as she listened to the brief voicemail message. “Mr. Casey, this is Marta Chaplin of Chaplin Real Estate in Classic, Oklahoma. I’d like to arrange a meeting with you to discuss a proposed strip mall to go up here in Classic.” Marta rattled off her phone number and ended the call. With a sigh of disgust, she tossed her cell phone on the desk and returned to her Excel file of investors.

As they read, readers will fill in all the little details of making a phone call—punching in the numbers, hearing the phone ring, speaking with the receptionist, closing the cell phone and tossing it down, the phone likely sliding on the desk, and Marta physically turning to her computer. They may even imagine her fingers poised over the keyboard.

Scenes occur in real time, but it would be excruciating if we were to relate every action and every second. We don’t need to state “Marta punched the five button on her phone, then a three, then another three…” Readers can and will fill in action you do not specifically show.

Next time, we’ll look at dealing with time in sequels.

Friday’s offer, posted Feb. 1 at the end of the post, will remain open until this Friday, Feb. 8, at which time comments will be closed and the offer ends.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

How Do Plot and Scene Work Together, Part 3: Sequel

Moving from scene to scene can be accomplished with as simple a statement as “Later that day…” However, there are times when you want to provide your reader with more. The sequel is your answer.

A sequel begins when a scene ends (not always, but usually), and like scenes, a sequel has specific elements. The sequel allows you to show your character’s emotions and thoughts as she analyzes her dilemma, makes a decision about her next step, and then takes action.

The elements of sequel—emotion, thought, decision, action—happen in that order. Why? Because that is the sequence of normal human response to trouble.


When we last saw Marta, she had attempted to garner investment capital for her strip mall, but failed. Enter sequel, stage right.

Marta stood stoically as she watched her investment capital file out the conference room door one by one. She waited until they had left the building before she slammed her office door, cursed to the empty air and plopped down in a chair. How could I have so misjudged their response? Did I fail to show how this mall will fatten their coffers? She took several deep breaths in an effort to calm her emotions and mind. 

Marta grabbed a piece of paper and jotted down the bankers’ objections while they were still fresh in her mind. She scanned her presentation again. Maybe my numbers are too high, but this is still a good investment. Time for Plan B.

Marta opened her “Investors” Excel file and entered “no” in the appropriate column next to each banker’s name. She scanned the document for regional business owners who could expand their business into the community, then reached for the phone.

Now it’s time for you to get involved. Pick out each sequel element as you see it happening and share specific words/sentences from the example in the comments below. First three people to take a stab (right or wrong) will receive a free critique of a scene or sequel from their work in progress (WIP) up to 500 words.

Debra L. Butterfield © 2013

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