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Scene Sequence

© 2010 by Jack Remick & Robert J. Ray

“Poema pictura loquens, pictura poema silens” (poetry is a speaking picture, painting a silent poetry).

Committing a story to memory is an important step in the development of your novel. The Scene Sequence is a tool you can use to get the through line working.  Once you have the scene sequence down you can write any scene in your novel at any time and it will connect. (See Hooks and Links for why this is important.) The technique is the following:

You write the long arc for your protagonist–how she begins, how she ends. You then set out a story line by imagining the story broken up into scenes in much the same way you would watch a movie develop. Opening scene, next scene. Study a few film scripts before you take your first shot at this technique, then sit down in  writing practice and have a go. Write for thirty minutes. If you don’t get all the way through, take another thirty minute stab at it. Below is part of the Scene Sequence Jack put together for his novel, Gabriela Dominguez. Use the start line “My novel opens in a scene called…”

A Scene Sequence for GD

1. GD opens in a scene called Exodus. GD and her mother are walking from their village to town to see a doctor. The mother is sick. What we don’t know yet is that G. has been raped when she was 13, just a year before the Exodus. On the path, G sees huge jungle toads staring at her. First Instance on this plot track.

2. In the town, Paso de la Reina, the mother dies. Gabriela buries her in a shallow grave then is lost. What to do? First Instance on this plot track. Gabriela approaches the Head Man’s Wife who hires her. Gabriela has to shed her Indian skirt for a blue pinafore. First Instance on this plot track.

3. One year later in Jamiltepec, Gabriela visits the market as she has done once a week. She meets a man, Nando, who comes to Jamiltepec to buy toad skins for the shop he works in in Oaxaca. Gabriela overhears her patrona bartering her into slavery with the Scarfaced Man. Afraid, Gabriela runs away with Nando.

4. In Oaxaca, Gabriela lives with Nando and works in the shop. She has bought a flowered dress and sandals. Second Instance on this plot track. In the shop, she meets Norteñas who come to Oaxaca for vacation.

5. In the Toad Purse Scene, Gabriela meets Mignonne who will later be revealed as Liah’s lover, but she travels with a Peruvian woman. Liah is the daughter of La Viuda who is not yet in the story. Gabriela learns English in the movies and in a class with Ellen Kole. First instance on this plot trac.

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