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Scene Action-Reaction Chart

Use this scene action-reaction chart as a checklist for building your scenes (action) and sequels (reaction).

It's no accident that some books we read hold our attention so well that we're reluctant to put them down, while others are a real slog, almost a chore to read. Strong, powerful scenes bring fiction to life and keep readers turning the pages. Where the scene shows a character in action, everything described in real time, the sequel allows readers to experience the sequence of events that always follows success or failure. The process of building scenes and sequels is described in detail on the Scenes and Sequels page, but this quick reference will act as a guide or checklist until writing these sequences become second nature.

Scene Action

Scene Goal: What does the POV character want in this scene?
Statement of Goal: Does the reader know what your character wants to accomplish in this scene?
Complication: What or who gets in the way of what the character wants?
Does the character fail? (If so, close the scene. The next time readers see this character, she will be reacting to her failure.)
Does the character achieve the goal? (To best create tension and drama, allow her to succeed only if succeeding creates some further complication or disaster as a result, and then close the scene.)

Scene Reaction

Raw Emotion: What does the character feel immediately after the success or failure? (Show, don't tell.)
Thought: What thoughts and memories are triggered by the success or failure?)
Decision: What does the character decide to do now?

all of which leads to a new scene with a new scene goal, and another action-reaction sequence.
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