Showing structuring: scene, sequel, and MRUs in a novel

So many people enjoyed my recent post, The Importance of MRUs that I thought I’d show you large-and-small-scale structuring of a scene and sequel using MRUs.  Actually, I got the most followers from that post.  Yay, me! 🙂

I’ve often found that things are easier to learn when you see them practiced.  That’s why I think this post will really help some of you who didn’t totally grasp my earlier one.

For this example, I’ll use parenthesis to show you the elements of scene and sequel.  Then I’ll show you the Motivation-Reactions-Units like this:  [M]=Motivation [R]=Reaction.

Okay?  Got it?  Good.  Let’s begin.

I’m using the first draft of my current WIP, the sequel to TIMBER POINT, tentatively entitled, MAD RUSH.  Please excuse the language. It’s not me, it’s Shawny.  She’s got quite a mouth on her.

Here we go:

[M](GOAL) Driving down a dark rural road I noticed headlights in my rearview. (CONFLICT) They sped up, then pulled back. The sped up again.

(DISASTER) The light blinded me, so [R] I flipped the mirror to night-view.

“Another drunk driver,” I said aloud. “Just what I need tonight.”

I had only left the house to clear my head, which I still often did. Living on the streets for eleven years had left its mark. Since I moved in with Levon last year, after a serial killer had me in his sights, every once in a while I’d feel trapped. And the only way I knew how to set myself free was to leave. And drive. No matter the time.

I stuck my arm out the window and gestured for the car to go around me.

[M] It stayed on my tail.

(REACTION)[R] Now, I worried. Now, I began to get flashbacks. The killer the locals had nicknamed Raid had stalked me, taunted me, and nearly killed me last year. And tonight, I felt that same feeling creeping back in, like a snake, fear coursing through my veins.

“Go around!” I swatted at the car again.

[M] It was an SUV. Dark. But anymore than that I couldn’t say.

[R] I took a right to circle back home. Then I thought about the ominous vehicle following me to my door. What if it was Raid? Had he escaped? Had he returned to darken my life again?

“Go around!”

[M](DILEMMA) The fucking truck wouldn’t get off my ass! Bright beams of lights flooded my new Hyundai Sante Fe in a yellow glow.

The dark truck gunned it.

[R](DECISION)(GOAL) I coasted curbside to let it pass.

[M](CONFLICT) Instead it hugged my driver’s door, (DISASTER) and then rammed into me.

The impact caused me to swerve. [R](REACTION) I slammed on my brakes. (DILEMMA) Fishtailed on the ice. When I looked up I saw a snow bank. I headed straight at it! I spun the wheel to the right. Then to left. (DECISION) Tried to veer out of a lurching back-end. (GOAL) Tried to get control of my truck when–


[M](CONFLICT) The tires roared up the snow bank.

[R] I cut the wheel again.

[M](DISASTER) My SUV rolled on its side, throwing my body around the front seat. My face smashed the windshield.

[R](REACTION) I heard the shatter of broken glass as I rolled, striking my head on the dash. (DILEMMA) I rolled, rammed my right shoulder against the passenger’s door. (DECISION) I tried to hold on. (GOAL) I tried. (CONFLICT) But the violent tumbling sent me flying.

[M] All movement stopped suddenly. Silence encompassed my crushed truck.

[R] Am I dead?

[M](DISASTER) My Sante Fe laid on its passenger’s side, the tires still spinning.

[R](REACTION) I opened my eyes.

[M] Warm blood trickled down my forehead and (DILEMMA) blurred my vision.

[R] Dazed, hazy and foggy, I couldn’t remember what had happened. My head throbbed and sharp pains shot to my right shoulder and ribs. I couldn’t move, but (DECISION)(GOAL) I knew I had to figure a way out. I couldn’t let–

[M](CONFLICT) Footsteps broke my concentration. They stomped around my truck, and then stopped right outside.

(DISASTER) The truck rocked back and forth, as if someone tried to climb on top. Then the driver’s door slowly creaked open.

[R](REACTION) “Who’s there? Help me! Please, I’m hurt!”

[M](DILEMMA) A silhouette appeared in the moonlight. “Next time, I’ll kill you,” a whispering voice said.


As you can see, I blow through the steps of scene and sequel quickly when I want to build tension. And since this is my hook, the more tension the better. If you want to slow it down– spread them out.

I should also point out, lots of times your DECISION IS your GOAL, and that’s fine. The two should circle around, that’s why I showed you one continuous loop. Over and Over scene, sequel, scene, sequel, scene, sequel… Until you reach THE END.

However, you must always alternate Motivation and Reaction. Your reaction can be as long  as several sentences or paragraphs or as short as one fragmented sentence. As long as you alternate your MRUs you’ll be fine.

It’s not easy keeping all the structure straight in your head. But once you do it over and over you’ll naturally start to write this way. You gotta figure, there are one hundred, sometimes more than one hundred complete scenes per novel, so it’s bound to sink in, right?

Good luck with your structuring!


I hope this clears up any questions you might have.  If it doesn’t, be sure to leave me a comment and I’ll try to help.


5 thoughts on “Showing structuring: scene, sequel, and MRUs in a novel

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  3. Pingback: Tips To Correct The Pacing In Your Novel (part 2) | Crime Fiction Author Sue Coletta

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