Teresa Carpenter on Scene & Sequel Pacing

Please help welcome author Teresa Carpenter, she is sharing with us how she paces her scene and sequels.


The door opened and Katrina walked barefoot into the lounge. She wore a lush white bathrobe that brushed her bare pink-tipped toes. Under it was a white garment trimmed in lace cut nearly as low as the V of the robe.
His gaze jerked to hers from the soft swell of her breasts visible in that V. She was so pale there was very little difference between her skin and the white of her nightclothes. Except for the shadows he’d noted earlier.

“Is Sammy okay?” she asked in a voice husky from sleep, her brow furrowed in concern. “Have you called the doctor?”
“His injury is not the problem,” he assured her, his brusqueness more for his benefit than hers. “Tessa woke him as instructed, but he will not go back to sleep.”
She gave a resigned nod, the action making her head appear too heavy for her slender neck. There’d been no sign of softness or frailness when she attacked him in the nursery. Just fierce protection of Samson.
Now he saw how tiny she was, clearly no more than five-four at the most. At six-two he towered over her. The oversize robe didn’t help. Nor did her fiery mane of hair, which she’d tamed into a braid that hung halfway down her back. But without makeup, her skin appeared starkly white against the vibrant color of her hair.
“Shall we go?” She moved forward, swaying slightly.
He ground his teeth, half tempted to send her back to bed. More than tempted to join her there. He dismissed the inappropriate thought, disgusted with his libido for rising up when his full attention should be on his brother’s family.
Samson’s needs came first.
“Where are your shoes?” he demanded, focusing on the practical.
She stopped and frowned, as if it took an effort to think. He was reminded she, too, had taken a knock to the head.
“I’ll fetch them.” The maid disappeared into the bedroom and returned a moment later with a pair of fuzzy slippers. Katrina slipped them on; her pink-tipped toes peeked through the end.
She rubbed her forehead. “Would you prefer I take the time to dress?”
Yes. There was something entirely too intimate about her in nightgown and robe.
“No.” Again he thought of Samson, saw tear trails on pale cheeks. “Let’s go.”
He followed her from the room and was surprised when the maid also stepped into the hall.
“It is all right, Anna.” Katrina bid the maid. “Thanks for watching over me. You can go now.”
“Oh, but I have doctor’s orders,” the young woman protested.
Annoyed by the delay, Julian bit back his impatience to address the woman. “What are your instructions? I’ll see she’s cared for the rest of the night.”
Clearly upset with the change in circumstances but unable to countermand his authority, Anna outlined the doctor’s instructions. “You must wake her every few hours and ask her questions to make sure she is coherent. If she’s not, or you notice anything strange about her pupils, or she gets sick, you need to call the doctor immediately.”
As she spoke, he automatically looked into Katrina’s eyes to check her pupils and found himself lost in the solemn depths. Blinking, he turned to the maid, acknowledged her instructions and sent her on her way. While he took care of that, Katrina started ahead of him.
Her actions caused him to scowl. Protocol demanded she follow him. Sighing, he decided to cut her some slack; she had a concussion after all. However, it didn’t escape his notice she appeared to know the way.
Though it may only mean she’d asked after where Samson would be, Julian believed it was more than that. She’d probably been the one to put him to bed. He wasn’t okay with that. He’d charged Tessa with taking the boy to his rooms, made it clear he’d wanted her to resume care of the boy.
Already his authority was being undermined.
Something he would not tolerate.
“Mademoiselle—” Damn. What was her name? He quickly closed the distance between them. “I wish to make myself clear. Your assistance with Samson is appreciated. That does not mean I will abide interference with my decisions regarding his care.”
“Of course,” she responded as she pressed the button to call the elevator.
“Are you mocking me?” he challenged, crowding her.
She blinked those big violet eyes at him as she shrank back, making him feel as if he’d chastised an innocent.
“No,” she said, and entered the elevator. She moved into the corner, her toes curling into her slippers. She pulled the edges of her robe together and tightened the sash. “I know you want what is best for him.” A wan smile lifted the corner of her mouth. “Otherwise I would not be here right now.”
He searched her features for any hint of guile but saw only the ashen evidence of her exhaustion. She looked so fragile he thought of sending her back to her bed. Only the thought of Samson’s suffering kept him resolute.
“Excellent.” The elevator doors opened and he waved her forward. “As long as you understand.”
They traveled the remainder of the distance in silence. Which made the sound of Samson’s cries all the more grating as they approached the door to Julian’s rooms.
Inside the suite, tears stained the cheeks of both Tessa and Samson. The nanny had been walking the boy, trying to soothe him, but upon his and Katrina’s arrival, she began sobbing.
“I can’t take anymore.” She thrust Samson into Katrina’s arms and fled.
Katrina didn’t hesitate. She wrapped Samson close and started talking to him. “Hey, baby, it is fine. I am here. Does your head hurt?” She kissed his light curls. “Mine, too.”
Though he continued to cry, there was no denying Samson preferred the redhead to the blonde. Instead of fighting the embrace by curling up and putting his arms and legs between his body and Tessa’s, he clung to Katrina’s lusher figure.
Finding the scene painful to watch, knowing this might just be the beginning of Samson’s trials, Julian moved to the fireplace to start a fire. This was going to be a long night.

Pacing is an important element in a story. It helps to keep the reader engaged. I like to use scene and sequel to help keep the pacing fluid and relevant. Let me demonstrate how the same elements support the setup of the story of STOLEN KISS FROM A PRINCE. In the setup Prince Julian’s GOAL is to protect his young nephew, Sammy, who has been traumatized by the news his parents are lost (and presumed dead). The CONFLICT comes from the fact he believes Katrina, the nanny at the palace his brother was visiting and where Sammy has been staying, told his nephew of the plane crash when there was no need, causing unnecessary trauma. As a result Julian doesn’t want Sammy anywhere near Katrina. Unfortunately, DISASTER, Sammy has bonded with Katrina and the three year old won’t respond to anyone else, including his own nanny.

The excerpt of STOLEN KISS FROM A PRINCE reflects the elements of GOAL, CONFLICT, and DISASTER. Julian returns to his rooms to find Sammy in tears and his nanny unable to soothe the child. Against his better judgment, Julian seeks out Katrina to assist with Sammy (GOAL). When he arrives at her rooms, he’s finds her looking vulnerable and desirable and he questions his right/decision to ask her to help Sammy (CONFLICT). Katrina doesn’t hesitate to offer her assistance. Though she’s injured she accompanies Julian to his suite, and when she sees Sammy’s distress she wraps him in her arms. Watching them, Julian realizes his control of the situation is in jeopardy (Disaster).   
Below I outline the stages of scene and sequel.


Ø  Goal: Sets up read expectations, gives the reader something to root for on behalf of the characters.

Ø  Conflict: Road blocks, complications, and emotional hurdles. Oh my.

Ø  Disaster: Establishes the importance of the goal. How badly does the character want their goal? Are they willing to fight for it?

Ø  Dilemma: Reveals character motivation, growth or lack of growth.

Ø  Decision: Redefines reader expectations and heightens the tension.

Ø  Hook/resolution: Draws the reader into the next scene/chapter or resolves the story.

To keep the reader engaged and the pacing interesting you’ll want to vary the flow and frequency of scene and sequel. For example you may want to run a couple of scenes together followed by a sequel especially in high action sequences. This escalates the pace and energy. Sequels slow the action but reveal emotion.

Another way to use scene and sequel to impact the pacing is to show the scene/action from one point of view and the sequel/reaction from the opposing point of view. It can also be a powerful juxtaposition to write back to back sequels from opposing points of view, showing the characters at emotional odds.   

TIP: If scene is focused on one element of story, weave another element into the sequel. For example, in a suspense if the scene is focused on the romance, in the sequel bring the mystery back into play.

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  1. Loved the excerpt. Thanks for sharing Teresa add well as the insight into scene and sequel placing :)

  2. I attended a workshop on this back when I was an aspiring romance author. Romance novelists have the best story building tools, I swear!

  3. Kelly, thanks for hosting me. My example reflected goal, conflict, and disaster, the elements of a scene, but if I had to pick the most under used element of scene and sequel, it would be in the sequel part @ dilemma, decision, and hook specifically decision. If a book seems a little flat, it may be because the author got caught up in the angst of the dilemma and forget to reveal the characters decision of what comes next.

  4. Thanks for the support ladies. Creating my own fairy tale was fun. Who is you fave prince/king hero? I go right to the movies and Clive Owen in King Arthur.

  5. Disaster is a great word - it really puts the conflict and the characters' needs into jeopardy. I've got to remember it when I'm trying to raise the stakes on my characters!

  6. Deniz, my example reflected goal, conflict, and disaster, the elements of a scene, but if I had to pick the most under used element of scene and sequel, it would be in the sequel part @ dilemma, decision, and hook specifically decision. If a book seems a little flat, it may be because the author got caught up in the angst of the dilemma and forget to reveal the characters decision of what comes next.