Understanding Scene Sequences

Scene SequenceA scene does not exist in isolation from other scenes. It is organically connected to the overall network of scenes that makes up a story.

Scene Sequencing

In Making a Good Script Great Linda Seger reminds us it is more useful to think of a scene as being a member of a scene sequence – scenes that are so tightly connected to one another that they create causal narrative blocks within the story.

These sequences might be chase scenes in a city that get progressively shorter until they end in a car crash or getaway; they may build up to the final explosion in The Guns of Navarone; they might culminate in two lovers reuniting as in When Harry met Sally.

In The fugitive the first sequence of scenes might be called murder and the sentencing. They form a tight causal unit and last eleven minutes in the film. The next sequence could be called the escape, leading to the train wreck. The sequence following that could be labeled after him and include the scenes of Deputy Sam Gerard starting the chase, culminating in Kimble arriving in Chicago.

And so on.

The point is that all these scenes are grouped together by cause and effect, or, at least, action and consequence, leaving little room for irrelevant, off-the-point action.

In my novel, The Level, for example, the protagonist, in the beginning of the story, finds himself bound to a sturdy chair in a pitch black room. To make matters worse he is suffering from amnesia and has no clue why he is in this situation.

Later, a mysterious woman in a burka appears to him from the darkness and unties him. She leaves him a series of clues he needs to follow in order to escape.

The story becomes a connect-the-dots mystery, driven by dangerous traps that threaten the protagonist’s every step. It may be argued that the entire story is driven by causally connected scene sequences, each of which reveals a part of the puzzle, leaving little room for boredom.

Summary

Organise your scenes into scene sequences in order to drive the action and maintain the pace in your stories.

3 thoughts on “Understanding Scene Sequences

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Great post. How I understand the importance of the scene: it serves as a reminder to the writer , viewer and even director and editor of the tone and genre of the overall story. This is perhaps most relevant to full feature film then any other medium. The scene sets the tone and no scene can begin without the opening image.

    Acclaimed screen writer Sean Daniels explains the importance of the opening image: ” When you look at The Dark knight trilogy by Christopher Nolan each opening image is that of the Batman symbol. However not one image is the same. For example : Bat symbol in blue flames – represents the Joker ( something that looks playful yet is dangerous) appose to the bat symbol in a silhouette of actual flying bats ( representing Bruce Wayne’s fears and why he choices the bat as his symbol = To be Batman means to face your fears)

    Another example is Gone Girl, a 2014 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher. Set in Northeast Missouri the story begins as a mystery that follows the events surrounding Nick Dunne, who becomes the primary suspect in the sudden disappearance of his wife. The opening image of Nick’s wife and his voice over is so powerful that this same scene is the closing image of the film.

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