KellBrigan
Just some thoughts: 

I just had an interesting situation, where from my protagonist's point of view, the scene was a "tail," but, because another character thinks she may be the killer, for that second character the scene was a "head." Interesting. (I called it a "tail" scene overall, but included a note about the Other Character's personal Goal/Conflict/Disaster in the Synopsis section. I had been having problems figuring this scene out, and seeing that Other Character is the one acting in this instance helps a lot. 

I'm wondering if different genre would have different percentages of heads/tails/incidents. (I haven't read any of Dwight Swain's stuff. Perhaps he discusses this.) For instance, maybe thrillers would be something like Head 70%, Tail 15%, Incidents 15% and Literary fiction would be more like Head 33%, Tail 34%, Incidents 33%. For my cozy mystery, I'm aiming for Head 50%, Tail 25% and Incidents 25%. (This is the first time I've analyzed scenes in this way, so this may change.) 
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Shebwetebs
I'm having trouble defining a head / tail / incident. I have read the instructions and still a bit confused. Please note I am very new to the writing game... Could someone let me know how hey fit in?
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KellBrigan
I'm new to this, too. I found this online which might help a bit.
 

I've musing on my favorite books to see how this applies. For instance, in A Christmas Carol, I think some of the reaction (aka. "sequel," aka. "tail") scenes are what Scrooge is doing (and thinking) "between the ghosts." (In this book, the ghosts drive the action; if Scrooge had his way, he'd stay in his rut and die miserable.) There's also an incredible "reaction" scene in the musical Sweeney Todd, where Todd missed a chance to get revenge on an enemy, and decides instead he's going to become a serial killer. The preceding Disaster is the Judge (the enemy) getting away. His reaction is rage and despair. The dilemma is "What do I do with my life, now?" (Sweeney "never forgets and he never forgives," as the chorus in the show says, so staying sane and healing are never really options for this guy.) His decision then, is, to enact revenge on anyone he wants.
 <George Hearn  
 < Bryn Terfel  (Both incredible performances.) 

I hope we hear from people who have more experience with this, too. [smile]

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thenovelfactory
Thanks for the question Shebwetebs and the great resources, Kell.

I think the Snowflake Guy explains the Head / Tail / Incident stuff quite clearly and concisely here.
http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

He uses slightly different terminology - he calls it the same things as Dwight Swain, but it's basically the same thing. I don't find that terminology so helpful because it feels like the wrong use of the word 'scene', but it's horses for courses.

I would also highly recommend getting the book that all this is referenced from: Techniques of a Selling Writer (Dwight Swain). Like The Snowflake Guy, I found it one of the best books on writing I've read - and I've read a lot.


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Shebwetebs
I suppose my question is (again being a newbie to novel writing) if you leave a scene / chapter on a cliffhanger, when do you do the sequel? The start of the next chapter? What if the start of the next chapter is also a scene?

Does it have to be a hard and fast rule of scene to sequel repeat? This is where I get confused.   
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KellBrigan
I think chapter breaks don't have to match up with scene/sequel breaks. In fact, I'm thinking of several examples where the chapter breaks immediately after the hero decides on a goal, and then the next chapter begins with attempts to reach the goal only to encounter conflict and the next disaster. 

It will be interesting if this shows up in the guidance sections. (I'm still at #6), but I suspect creating chapter breaks won't happen until we're into the second draft. 
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thenovelfactory
I agree that the Goal to Decision cycle doesn't always neatly line up with the scenes, which needs to be improved in the software.

Particularly because the reaction to decision part of it may be very brief (that's what often happens in my stories anyway - I'm all about action!), possibly even only a few sentences in some cases, so it seems crazy to set up a whole new scene for it.

I don't think there are any hard and fast rules, these things should only ever be taken as guidelines. You should deviate wherever you feel it right to, but just being aware of these things means that if something isn't working you can consider it from this point of view and you may discover where the problem is.

Just this morning I was pondering Head and Tail scenes and decided I needed to do something like this:

Goal / Conflict / Incident / Disaster.

I considered whether I needed to restructure the scenes to stick closer to the Goal to Decision Cycle, but in the end decided that breaking the conventions was right in this case, as that's what felt right for the scene.


http://www.novel-software.com
“It's extremely useful in organizing and making me think about what I write. The advice was invaluable, and the step-by-step instructions guided me extremely well through the writing process, allowing me to develop characters and plot a lot further than expected.” - See more at: http://www.novel-software.com/writingsoftwaretestimonials.aspx#sthash.0smYiFBM.dpuf
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mhender668
First, congratulations to everyone for using this software, and having the wisdom to pay attention to what it says. 

The idea of heads/tails (scenes/sequels as Dwight Swain called them) is that every scene (head) has a sequel (tail). That's what's nice about calling them Heads and Tails, because it really gives you the image that you've got to have both. I look at them as a single unit.

So, as a general rule, every Head should have a Tail. Once in a while you can have the Incident, but it should be rare.

Everything your character does should drive the story forward. To that end, every scene has to accomplish something.

So, the character must go into a scene with a goal. He's trying to accomplish something that hopefully is related to the story. You can't just give it to him, so there has to be conflict. Something or someone is acting to prevent him from getting what he wants. In the end, he doesn't get what he wants, or what he does get is different from what he sought. That's what is usually referred to a disaster.

Swain gave an obvious example. A young man goes into a cafe where a girl is, with the hope of asking her on a date. If he just walked in, she smiled and said hello, he asked her out, and she said yes, then he leaves, that's not a scene. That's nothing, because it's boring. It's boring because there's no conflict.

But if he walks in, sees the girl, is nervous, but he proceeds anyway, and then a football player who also likes her comes in, pushes the boy around and kicks him out, that's a scene (Head). There's a goal, conflict, and disaster/outcome. There has been a change. The character is not the same as when he went in.

Now what? You can't just have another scene, you need a sequel (Tail). The boy reacts to what just happened, he has a dilemma as to what to do next, and he makes a decision. Oh boy, he just made a fool out of himself, maybe he should forget it. He's likely to get beat up. There are other girls. But is he going to let a big bully push him around? No, sir. He's going to try again. 

That gives him the goal for the next scene.

It's not always as obvious as that, but if look in any recent novel, and any movie, that structure is there. I'm not sure that a Victorian novel will have it, but any modern one should.

Sometimes the Tail is only a couple of lines, but it might be as long as the original scene.

The thing is, you can't just take the reader from scene to scene to scene without a break. Scenes involve conflict. No conflict, no story. Just going from conflict to conflict is tiring for the reader. 

I encourage you to read Swain's book, it has a lot of other helpful stuff in it.

By the way, the conflict does not need to be a big fight or a battle. It could be internal. It could be just a snotty store clerk. Likewise, the "disaster" could just be that instead of Coke Light, they only have Coke Zero. 

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KellBrigan
So, the part where the woman in the cafe elbows her way past the two guys fighting and responds with, "What was your name again?" when the football player asks her to stop and claims he gets to "date" her now because he won the fight and that means she's now his property, and she then goes on to explain that a) she never dates men who call women "girls," and b) she's not particularly attracted to either of them so they should leave her alone or she'll call security and get out her concealed-carry would be an "incident?" (It doesn't really remove conflict from the jerks presuming to fight over a human being as if she were a slave to be trafficked, but it does change the nature of the conflict. Instead of engaging in some sort of perverse physical fisticuffs that they presume gives them the right to intrude upon the lives of people who couldn't care less about whatever the hell it is they're doing with their little puppy fight, their new goal is to stop being creepy, sexist, presumptuous, pervert weirdos. Or, maybe he's actually showing that the woman in the cafe is the protagonist, and is an undercover cop engaging in a sting to ferret out a group of local rapists who have this sort of "fight club" deal where they battle over who in the group gets to commit the next crime. Yeah, that's it.)

Holy crap, are all Swain's examples this messed up? Seriously. He wrote the book in the 1980s; rape really was illegal then, honest!

Edited to Add: 
The version I saw must have been a reprint, because some folks are saying this book's 50 years old, from back in the dark ages of white gloves and wearing chapel caps to church (i.e. back when I was six years old.) Yeah, looks like we have here one of those Aristotle situations. To wit, if you read what the twit says about white men and pretend he's applying it to everybody, he's got some good ideas. Along the way, however, you have to ignore big chunks of isms (sex, race, elite...) Haven't read Swain (yet), but if I do, I may buy myself something nice first as an incentive. On the other hand, it might be fun to reminisce about typewriter ribbons. (I learned to type on a beautiful old Remington newsroom model. That thing was so heavy it affected the gravitational stability of nearby objects.) Here's some commentary:

https://www.librarything.com/work/7825
http://www.examiner.com/review/instead-of-swain-s-how-to-read-authors-who-recognize-women-can-be-writers
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/408230.Techniques_of_the_Selling_Writer
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mhender668
Yes, Swain's book is from the 60s, but his principles are used as the foundation of all fiction writing everywhere by everyone, including this software. It applies to short stories, novels, and screenplays. 

Some of his examples may be out of date, but they are still realistic (read the news). I have read the book, and there is nothing racist or sexist in it. He talks about writing. If you can't follow the scene/sequel concept because you think an example in the book is sexist, that's fine. I personally don't care. I was simply trying to help you understand the concept, and do you a favor by pointing you to the book.
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KellBrigan
White men don't get to decide what's sexist or racist. (Look up "mansplaining.") 

I'll stick with the dozens of reviewers I found condemning the weirdness in the book. The world was getting over sexism and racism even in 1965, where Swain was for unknown reasons clinging to a pathetic pseudosuperiority.

Even the sole, sicko example cited of weirdo men thinking they can fight for the right to rape a female "thing" is MESSED UP. You've already proven the book is substantially sick. End of question.
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KellBrigan
I did a little biographical digging on Dwight Swain. His background was in pulp fiction, including a fair amount of BDSM stuff that was half a paragraph away from being pornography (his victim/slave is always female.) He wrote ...Selling Writers three years before he was divorced from his wife of over 25 years. At this point in his life, his writing also because even more obviously misogynistic and sarcastic. I was not able to confirm this, but I would bet cash money that his wife left him, and a lot of the hatred of women that shows up in 1965-1970 is childish, self-indulgent pique. I saw similar behaviors firsthand as a child. Ditto the racism -- a lot of terrified men reacted with this sort of abuse and snark to the restoration of dignity and freedom to women and the non-white communities in the '60s; poor little guys were just totally freaked out at the prospect of not being able to order people around any more, I guess. He seems to have gotten over most of that BS, however. He remarried a few years later, moved to Mexico, eventually adopted some kids. And, there's no record I could find of sexual violence in the days he was writing the BDSM stuff, so it looks likely that, while he spent a good chunk of his 50s as an absolute asshat, he wasn't actually a criminal or abuser. (I would put G. K. Chesterton in the same camp -- occasionally insightful within his own sphere, but totally loon clueless about anything other than the lives of white men who either have privilege or think they should.) 

WHY YOU SHOULD CARE \/ \/ \/ \/ 

Anyway, all this impacts us because I think we need to take the scene structures he proposes with several grains of salt. He was writing for not-particularly-thoughtful, not well-educated, frequently frustrated and resentful white men and boys looking for a quick, sexist, racist, self-indulgent, non-threatening thrill that appeals more to the primitive brain than to the cerebral cortex. I'm going to keep in mind my earlier questions about the different proportions of Action to Reaction to Incident. So far, my impressions are that most "literary" fiction is going to have longer and more developed reaction scenes and that much genre fiction (mysteries of all sorts, horror, fantasy...) may have more "incidents" -- to develop theme* than Swain's right-on-the-edge-of-porn thrillers. That's my hunch du jour anyway. 

*George R. R. Martin's "6-page descriptions of every last meal" come to mind here. 
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elizparker
I absolutely believe in Swain's Goal/Conflict/Disaster & Reaction/Dilemma/Decision cycles. But since Swain, the thinking in some genres (especially romances and thrillers) has been updated. Many now believe that having separate Head and Tail scenes slow down a book with too much "navel gazing" and reflection. The thinking now is to shorten the Reaction/Dilemma/Decision cycle somewhat and incorporate it into the end of the Head scene. I wish the software would do that.
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thenovelfactory
Hi Elizparker,

Huge apologies for taking so long to process your first post, I somehow missed it. Now you have had approval for your first post, all subsequent posts will go up immediately, without requiring approval.

As for your comment, I agree with you completely. I think it would be better for the software to be flexible enough to allow the Tail scene to be incorporated into the Head, and I'm trying to work out how to update the software to allow for that : )
http://www.novel-software.com
“It's extremely useful in organizing and making me think about what I write. The advice was invaluable, and the step-by-step instructions guided me extremely well through the writing process, allowing me to develop characters and plot a lot further than expected.” - See more at: http://www.novel-software.com/writingsoftwaretestimonials.aspx#sthash.0smYiFBM.dpuf
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elizparker
You did it! I recently checked and you've upgraded the software so that Reaction/Dilemma/Decision can come at the end of a scene (not in a separate scene). Thanks so much for listening. You're the greatest! I'm now an online member, and I love the Novel Factory!

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