Betty J. Slade
I’m amazed as to how many mistakes I’ve made and yet my life has turned out pretty good. I could sum it up by saying I failed my way to success and I did it by making scenes.
It was my turn to teach the writers’ group about writing scenes and sequences in their novels. The last time I taught the group about putty and pebble people, the whole group came unglued and cried. I lost total control and the teaching didn’t go as planned. That morning’s teaching turned out to be a scene.
This time I knew not to talk about Hallmark love stories, sick or dying people. I hope this lesson will go as planned. If it does, it will be a sequence.
I realized some people live their life as if they were selling their story. Their lives are page-turners with lots of drama. Whether it’s a person or a character in a book, they are living their lives in scenes without knowing it. Each scene ends with another problem and the reader turns the page to see what’s going to happen next. It makes for a great book but a life that is hard to live.
A scene happens when an important aspect of your story is altered. It gets complicated and doesn’t go as planned. An example, Sweet Al wants to leave the party early, his doting wife says, “No. She’s not ready.” Their scene is altered.
He sulks, leaves the party, sits in the car and waits for his doting wife. Meanwhile, his Lovely is scurrying about with the party guests and she makes excuses for her husband. The longer he waits the madder he gets. He leaves without her. Sweet Al has just caused a scene. That’s a page-turner. How will she get home? She leaves the party at midnight and hitches a ride with a stranger.
A sequence is when all goes as planned. Sweet Al wants to leave the party early. His doting wife says, “No. She’s not ready, but she wants him to meet somebody he would enjoy.” He reluctantly stays and makes a new friend. All goes as planned. He’s happy, she’s happy, they go home together happy and they continue to live the next sequence of their story.
A scene doesn’t end with closure, but with a complication that propels the story forward. Sweet Al and I have lived our lives in scenes. Whatever we do, there is always an altered situation, which leads to the next scene, sequence, or chapter. The only way to hold these scenes together is with an interlude.
An interlude is the glue, an adhesive that holds the scenes together. We call it love, but it’s more that that. It’s the time we need to re-orient ourselves before we start the next scene. We hold hands, we walk to the river, or we dream together.
An example, Sweet Al wants to leave the party early, his doting wife says, “No. She’s not ready.” He sulks and sits in the car. Sweet Al has just caused a scene. The doting wife leaves the party early with him, spends her (party) time in the car talking to sulking Al. She reasons with him and tries to understand his fears and dislikes. Such as he doesn’t like being out after dark. She tells him it’s already dark. Dark is dark. Does he know he’s sitting in a dark car?
It’s a come-to-Jesus meeting in the car for Sweet Al and his Lovely. They’ve just had an interlude. He goes back into the house and the party begins again for the doting wife. The interlude holds the scene and sequence together. They continue as planned and the story continues.
The interlude is the Blue Blood Reagans at their family dinner. It’s walking the beat. It’s going back to the office and gathering the facts. It’s the interlude without dragging the story down, but re-orients them for the next chase scene or murder scene.
Also another need for an interlude is that a character needs to process. A friend dies, and she grieves. She gets laid-off and she re-groups. She’s left at the altar by some jerk she can’t live without. She picks up the pieces and figures out what’s next. If a story doesn’t include an interlude, something significant is altered, nothing is processed, therefore it won’t strike the reader that the story is honest about human nature. Characters have to appear real and real people need interludes.
Pretty simple. In our real lives some of us don’t take those necessary interludes and we end up falling flat on our faces. We can’t get up and it becomes a forced interlude and is a healing of sorts. An interlude will put things back together again. It’s that glue, which is necessary. It’s okay to grieve, take a break, realize you don’t have to be so darn important or you’re better off without the jerk.
When Sweet Al makes a scene and his doting wife writes about it in her column, it’s her internal interlude written on paper. It gives her a place to re-orient until the next deadline and scene. Sometimes she uses artistic license when life could have been a sequence, she turns into a scene. The story sounds better if Al makes a scene.
A good story must not find resolution until the climax of the story, or readers will lose interest.
Remember the story is about your character who wants something he can’t get. Whatever it is, saving his marriage, discovering the meaning of life, or striving to solve the problem, it moves the story to the last page. He can’t achieve his desire until the end of the story. Let’s say, until he acts out his last scene.
They call it, “He fails his way to success.” At the end he is overcome by the struggle or he struggles to overcome. Sounds like a good marriage.
Final Brushstroke! A real live person or fictitious character will go through scenes, sequences and interludes in their stories. Most of us have failed our way to success. On April Fool’s Day 2020, it will be 60 years since My Sweet Al and I said, “I do.” We have lived together through whatever has come. Believe me, we’ve lived and felt the emotions of every scene. We’ve walked through many interludes and continued them with on-going sequences. That’s how we’ve learned to live our page-turning story.
Very well said... 66 years later now and all of the above...yes it does take Glue!!Great story and yes I did enjoy it .. I'm sharing it..
Betty you're the best! From one scene to the next, your honesty and humor are a model for others.
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