Disaster and Reaction scene structure

This method for structuring novels is based on a method described by Dwight V.Swain in ‘Techniques of the Selling Writer’.

In this context a scene is a sequence of events, or block of story action. A scene might be only a few paragraphs, or it may be a chapter or more.

Dwight says there are two types of scenes, and these follow one from the other to build a story.

Disaster scenes

Disaster scenes need the central character to strive for a goal and find disaster. They have a three part structure: goal, conflict, disaster. If your character doesn’t find disaster in pursuing his goal, your story is over. In the end of the story he can find victory or defeat, but until then Disaster is encountered. If your reader cares about reaching the goal, Disaster scenes keep them turning the page!

Reaction scenes

Reaction scenes follow Disaster scenes. These scenes are a reaction to the Disaster the character finds. Your central character reacts, faces a dilemma, and makes a decision. The decision leads to the goal again. So we return to the Disaster scene sequence again. The pattern is Disaster – Reaction – Disaster – Reaction… until the end of the story when we meet the final Victory or Defeat.

Try this method out with the following plan.

Share this plan

Disaster scene


Reaction scene