Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene | Dani and Steve Alcorn | Skillshare

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Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene

teacher avatar Dani and Steve Alcorn, Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Plot vs. Story


    • 3.

      Scene and Sequel Structure


    • 4.

      Project: Write Your Scene


    • 5.

      Next Steps


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About This Class

The Creative Writing Project series helps you complete a novel, short story or screenplay. Each class focuses on a specific step in the creative process, from brainstorming to publication. The goal is to get you published!

This class introduces you to a tool that will change your writing life: the magic of scene and sequel. It guarantees you will balance story and plot, enabling you to write exciting and emotionally effective scenes. When you complete this class project, you will have a terrific original scene already written, plus the tools you’ll need to write your entire Creative Writing Project.

The classes in this series include:

  • Creative Writing Project: Brainstorm Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Character
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure Your Story
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 1
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 2
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Act 3
  • Creative Writing Project: Structure a Scene
  • Creative Writing Project: Create a Setting
  • Creative Writing Project: Write Great Dialogue
  • Creative Writing Project: Energize Your Manuscript
  • Creative Writing Project: Publish Your Book
  • Creative Writing Project: Market Your Book

Meet Your Teacher

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Dani and Steve Alcorn

Authors, Mentors, Online Instructors


Steve Alcorn is the author of many novels and non-fiction books. His publications include mysteries, young adult novels, a romance novel, children's books, history and non-fiction about theme park design, and the writer's guide How to Fix Your Novel.

Dani Alcorn is the Chief Operating Officer of Writing Academy, a writing instructor, and author of Young Adult fiction, screenplays, and a screenwriting handbook. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from Northwestern University, where she majored in Psychology and Radio, Television, & Film.

Steve and Dani have helped more than 50,000 aspiring authors structure their novels. Many of their students are now published authors.

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1. Introduction: Hello and welcome to the creative writing project. I'm Steve Alcorn, your instructor and mentor. These classes air all about projects. They're all about creating your own original novel, short story or screenplay step by Step one project at a time. The ultimate goal of this course is by the time you've completed these projects, you'll be ready to publish. I'm the author of a number of novels, travel books, Children's books, nonfiction books about the theme park industry and the book How to Fix Your Novel, which tells you all about the techniques you'll use to structure and create your own original work of fiction. It's techniques that will draw upon throughout this class in order to achieve your ultimate goal of getting into print. So let's get started the creative writing project. This lesson is all about writing. A scene in this overview will take a look at the introduction to what seen writing is all about. Starting with some key concepts will look at the difference between plot and story. Even if you've heard this before, this review will be important for you because it's all about the structure of every scene in your novel. Short story or screenplay, and then we'll look at this key concept called scene and sequel. This concept literally changed my writing life, and I think it will do the same for you. It shows you how to balance, plot and story in your own work, how to control the pacing and how to make sure that not only is there exciting action but also emotionally involving reaction throughout your work. Then, in the project section of this lesson, you'll have an opportunity to write your own scene and sequel using my seven Elements technique. Finally, in the last lesson, I'll show you some next steps to further your writing career, so let's get started. 2. Plot vs. Story: in this series of lessons will take a look at how to write a scene and you'll write one of your own. But before we can begin, we need to refresh our memory about the difference between plot and story, because that is integral to writing a scene. So just to refresh your memory, if you haven't taken some of the prior classes that led up to this one, let's review plot versus story really quickly. So plot is your protagonists. Physical journey and story is your protagonists. Emotional journey. Plot is physical. Story is emotional, so plot is what happens. It's the action. It's someone going from place to place its combat. It's even dialogue, and story is internal. It's the emotional part. It's the feelings, the thoughts and the decisions. So when writing a scene and its counterpart the sequel, we're going to need to balance these two. So just to get them crystal clear, the scene is where your protagonists physical journey takes place, and the sequel is where your protagonists emotional journey takes place. So that creates a balance of plot and story. Where plot is the action, and story is the reaction where plot is just not on Lee activity, but meaningful action that carries your character forward to a particular goal. And story helps to develop your character, and you need to balance the two of them in seen in Sequel because too much story can bog down a novel or a screenplay. So finding that balance is the trick to creating effective scenes and Sequels. And in a movie, pretty much everything is a scene. There's no way to really do a sequel, other than to go to a shot of the characters face. And they have to interpret that sequel, that feeling that emotional response. So, for example, James Bond is mostly all scenes with lots of plot action, whereas Twilight is mostly Sequels with lots of story responses. And Harry Potter is a balanced product that combines the plot of Harry becoming a wizard with the story of Harry overcoming lack of self confidence. So as you proceed with this project, keep in mind that plot is physical and story is emotional. As you develop your scene and its sequel, you'll be working with plot and then story. So let's get started with that 3. Scene and Sequel Structure: seen and sequel is a technique that really changed my writing life, and I hope you'll find that it does the same. So what is a scene and what is its sequel? The scene is the action part of what you write. It's the plot. It's the things that happen. It's the character setting out to do something, the physical action of doing it, the dialogue that may be involved, any of the physical struggle. That's all part of the scene. The sequel, on the other hand, is what immediately follows its the characters reaction to what happened before. So it's internal. It's the emotion, the thought and the decision process that follows. So as we saw in the previous lesson, the scene is plot and the sequel is story, and you need both of them in order to create a good work of fiction. Now let's remember that a scene that we're talking about here is not a setting change. It's not the same as a scene in a screenplay where a setting changes that's called a scene , and then you move on to the next one, and that's the next scene. There could be many scenes in a novel in what would be a single setting, because each time that the protagonist discovers a setback to what they're trying to do and starts trying to do it again, that's actually the boundary between one pair of seen and Sequels and the next, and so that could happen over and over again before we change to a new setting location. It's also important to note that because the scenes air inherently exciting since they're physical and the Sequels are more introspective, you control the pacing of your fiction by the ratio of the Scene. Two. The sequel. If you were dragging, then you build up the scene so that there's more action involved. And if you are blundering from one spot to another without enough introspection than you build up the sequel so that there's more thoughtfulness applied in between those action scenes. So let's look at the different pieces that make up the scene. The first is the goal for every scene the protagonist needs to be trying to do something. If they're not trying to do something, you don't need the scene because it's not advancing the plot, and that's really the fundamental purpose of a scene So once you've established their goal , then they're going to meet with some conflict. This is the difficulty that they have in achieving the goal, even if their goal is just to get some information and the scene consists entirely of dialogue. The conflict is the dialogue that goes back and forth as they try to get the information from another character. And if you don't have that conflict, if they just immediately accomplish their goal again, there's not really any reason for the scene. You could just summarize it all in one sentence of exposition and move on, because it's the conflict that drives fiction and makes it interesting. And then the final element of this scene is the disaster. Now this is not necessarily a dam breaking or war breaking out or something really dramatic like that. It's just the set back that the character experiences in their attempt to accomplish the goal. So in my previous example, if they were trying to get information, then they engaged in dialogues that was a form of conflict to get that information, and then the person didn't give it to them or didn't tell them what they were hoping to hear, and that is the disaster. Once the disaster occurs, it's time for the sequel. So let's look at the elements of the sequel. The sequel begins with an emotion, an emotional response to that disaster. It's usually something like disappointment or determination or anger or fear surprise. It's some powerful emotion that immediately follows as the direct result of not being able to accomplish the goal of the scene and being met with disaster. Instead, once the emotion has occurred, now it's time for the character to think about what possibly could be done next. This question could be asked a different way. In the case of trying to find out information, the wall could be scaled a different way in the case of physical action, trying to climb over a wall. It's another approach, and then once the thought process has panned out, it's time for a decision. You pick the decision that makes the most sense, and then you can act upon it. And so the final element of the sequel is actually a plot action. It's action, but it could also be the goal of the next scene. And so, in many cases, there are really three elements have seen and three elements of sequel, and they just repeat over and over again. And in fact, a novel or a screenplay consists of nothing but a continuous Siri's of seen and sequel scene and sequel from beginning to end. There is nothing else. Even the settings and descriptions and other bits of information that might go in will fit nicely into the scene and sequel format. You can work a setting in often to the goal section of the scene. You can often establish different fax during the thought section as the character thinks about them, so that we learn about them. So that's where backstory can often occur. So everything that will occur in your novel occurs someplace in the scene and sequel. It's really quite magical. And once you become used to this sequence of events, you'll find that it makes your writing flow much easier and greatly reduces the amount of editing that you need to do later on. And so Steen and sequel consists of the scene with its three elements of gold, conflict and disaster, and the sequel with its four elements of emotion thought, Decision and Action and if you just jot those down on a little three by five card or something and put it in your writing area to remind you, you'll find that following that pattern really makes your writing flow logically. Flow well and you'll end up with a terrific balance between plot and story, and you'll be able to let your character's experience their emotions and convey those to your readers without forgetting to write about those internal things because they right there on your reminder card. But similarly, you'll also be reminded that if things air bogging down, it's time to pump up those goals and conflicts and disasters. Now, how do the scene and sequel structure relate to the story structure checkpoints that we covered in one of the prior courses? Well, if you look at the three acts, we divided those into three check points each in the first act had a hook that's going to begin probably with a scene, and there's probably going to be multiple scene and Sequels within that it turned into back story in the back story could all be contained within the thought section of one sequel as a memory, or there could be many different scenes and Sequels in the back story as we learn about the daily life of your protagonist and what they're doing and what the situation is. And so this is a way to both convey the motion forward through those scenes and also to get to know the character through those Sequels. And then finally, the first act ended with a trigger, and the trigger is simply a scene. It's the disaster, and that was where Act two began. An act to begins with a crisis and the crisis is simply the emotional reaction of your protagonist, where they are overcome by their flaw. So that boundary between Act one and Act two is right in the middle of a scene and sequel pair comprised of the trigger and the crisis. Then the Strugar struggle is the longest section of your writing, and it may consist of 50 or 100 arm or seen in sequel pairs, one after another. But the last element of the struggle will likely be that black moment we talked about, and that black moment is again a disaster. So it's the disaster of the last scene in the struggle and the epiphany once again is just a sequel. It's thes emotional reaction to that black moment and then the thought and the decision when the character decides to finally overcome their flaw and change, then Act three begins and Act three is a plan. So now most of Act three is very physical, so you're going to have longer scenes and shorter Sequels in it, as the protagonist makes a plan and faces multiple setbacks but eventually gets to a climax . And in the climax, things finally work out well. And we're going to eventually have one disaster that is not so disastrous to the protagonists but actually turns out to be more what they were looking for. And then the ending, maybe mostly internal in their minds So the Sequels make it longer. But we still continue to have the action oscillating between scenes and Sequels until the very end of the story, and the story can end with action or it can end within a scene. It's up to you as to how you want to bring it to conclusion. So that's how the magical scene and sequel structure plays out through the overall structure of your story. And now, having planned all three of your acts and understanding the internal structure of scenes. You're ready to begin writing your manuscript, and we'll do that in the very next lesson where we will have a project to write your first scene and sequel. I'll see you there. 4. Project: Write Your Scene: Now that you understand scene and sequel, it's time for you to write your first scene. So here's how I'd like you to approach it, open a document file and type in all of the scene and sequel elements as headings in that file so you'll have a goal, conflict and disaster those air, all parts of the scene. And then you'll have emotion, thought, decision and action. Those are all parts of the sequel, although that action at the end maybe the goal of the next scene as well. Now, once you have those in as headings, what I'd like you to do is beneath each those headings, right, a single sentence that describes that element and make sure that that sentence really matches what the title is on the scene and sequel. Don't get too fancy for your 1st 1 Make sure there's real clear goal and that the conflict is indeed a physical conflict, not an internal one, and that the disaster is a really setback that prevents the goal from occurring, that the emotion is a legitimate response to that disaster, that the thought logically follows from what happened and then a decision as to what to do next, the decision might be to do nothing. The decision might be to try to do the same goal again, perhaps in a different way, or the decision might be to do something completely different. It's up to you and then, based upon that decision, jot down what the next action is. Once you're happy with that, make a copy of that document and then right all of those elements out as a true seen expanding each of those sentences but not rearranging them so that they flow with your normal style of writing and then share both your initial outline and the final scene and sequel with us in the community so that we can take a look at it and evaluated and share in your success is being able to now apply scene and sequel to your own writing. Once that's complete, you can go ahead and get started on your manuscript, although we'll have lots of more tools coming for you in the projects that follow 5. Next Steps: thanks for joining me on this journey. I've enjoyed it and I hope you have to. Thing is one of a dozen different projects that are available through this series, of course, is if you follow all of these projects from brainstorming all the way to marketing, you'll be able to bring your idea for a novel, short story or screenplay to reality, step by step and project by project. In the meantime, I hope you'll follow us on Facebook and be sure to sign up for free writing tips. I look forward to seeing you there. Until then, happy writing.