The Two Scene Types: Part 2 – The Reactive Scene

Ink and pen sketch of fictional character
Image via Wikipedia

The reactive scene doesn’t get as much attention as the proactive scene but it is equally important to move your story forward.  The reactive scene follows the proactive scene.

The reactive scene begins with a Reaction, continues through most of the scene with a Dilemma, and concludes with a Decision.  It is not any more difficult to write than the proactive scene but your intention must be clear.

  1. At the beginning of the reactive scene, the point of view character is reeling from the setback in the previous scene.  The character may spend some time reacting emotionally and then gets control of his feelings.
  2. The dilemma occurs in the middle of the reactive scene when the character needs to figure out what to do next.  There may be no good options and the character needs to think hard to choose the best of a bad lot.  This choice is not necessarily a good one.
  3. The decision at the end of the scene provides the character with a goal for the next (proactive) scene.

Good use of the reactive scene deepens understanding of your character.  The more a reader or viewer empathizes with the character the more he is drawn into the story.  Feelings are what keeps your audience going with the story.  The pull is basic:  a gut reaction to your character’s dilemma and the decision she makes.

The next time you watch a film or read a novel pay special attention to the reactive scenes.  Notice how they work within the story.

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