The Scene and Sequel Pattern for Writers

Posted on Oct 12, 2017 (last modified Jun 1, 2021)




Whether you’re a pantser or a plotter, you need to carry the reader through your story with a purposeful progression of logically connected events that ultimately lead to the resolution of a climax. How can you advance through your scenes in a way that creates a steady and consistent reading speed, or pacing, while also accounting for important factors such as building tension, developing characters, and describing setting? The Scene and Sequel technique developed by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer, is one that can help you create a solid pacing with the powerful and emotional experience that readers crave.


Portions of your novel may have the tendency to lag or drag and fail to create a deep emotional connection with the characters of your story. 


  • Humans like patterns and readers like a pattern that establishes solid pacing through a novel while building tension, developing characters, describing setting, and advancing plot lines.
  • As a writer, you must use a pacing that helps create and maintain an illusion strong enough to deliver the powerful and emotional experience that readers crave – one that allows them to escape from the drudgery of the real world and a way to live vicariously through others.



Alternate between the two variant types of scenes known as SCENE and SEQUEL. The SCENE is driven by a goal, conflict, and disaster. It is then followed by a SEQUEL, which contains a reaction, dilemma, and decision. The decision leads to a new goal which begets the next SCENE and, as such, the cycle repeats.


Scene and Sequel is a technique developed by Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling WriterIt can help you create and maintain solid pacing while also guiding you to account for the factors that build tension, develop characters, describe setting, and advance plot lines.

A scene has the following pattern:

  • Goal – what the character wants. Must be clearly definable
  • Conflict – an obstacle or series of obstacles that keep the character from the goal
  • Disaster – makes the character fail to get the goal

And a sequel has the following pattern:

  • Reaction – emotional follow through of the disaster
  • Dilemma – a situation with no good options
  • Decision – character makes a choice (which sets up the new goal)


For a brief example, see Writing Patterns Into Fiction: Scene and Sequel.

Related patterns


References and related external resources