Good Cats Don’t Race Dumb Dogs


Before anyone accuses me of disrespecting dogs, let me say that I’m a dog owner, and I absolutely love dogs. Cats are okay too, and I don’t recommend any cat try to outrun a dog, whether the cat thinks that dog is dumb or not. I’ve heard stories.

“Good Cats Don’t Race Dumb Dogs” is my mnemonic for the building blocks of scene and sequel structure that motivate and change the protagonist to move the story forward, hopefully with a willing reader along for the ride.

Scene:  Goal, Conflict, Disaster

Sequel: Reaction, Dilemma, Decision

While writing, I could never remember those specific terms, although I sometimes got the structure right by instinct and other times relied on a note kept near my computer keyboard. But I wanted a helpful device to recall scene and sequel structure in an instant. A mnemonic about animals was perfect for me.

I’ve read a number of books on the fiction writing craft that refer to or analyze that structure, introduced by Dwight V. Swain in his Techniques of the Selling Writer, I believe. I haven’t read any of his books, but I’m now reading K.M. Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel, and she refers to Swain’s work. Other published authors and bloggers, such as Randy Ingermanson, address the same structure. Sometimes the terms vary, but they have the same meaning.

So what do you think? Will this mnemonic help you remember, as it does me? Do you have a mnemonic for remembering anything else important to your writing?


7 thoughts on “Good Cats Don’t Race Dumb Dogs

  1. Reblogged this on Bird Face Wendy and commented:

    Sharing with you a post I wrote on my group blog about a mnemonic I created for scene and sequel structure: Good Cats Don’t Race Dumb Dogs.


  2. While I’ve certainly heard of these elements of the story, the truth is that I don’t consciously think of them while writing. Perhaps that’s why it’s taken me so long to get a book published. 🙂


  3. Hi, AJ. The use of that structure is often instinctive, and some authors don’t always follow a scene with a sequel. But whenever I’m unhappy with a scene or its follow-up sequel, I check on the structure to see what I’ve missed. Congratulations and best wishes for success with your upcoming release!


  4. That’s a cute mnemonic. It’s a fun exercise to look at books and see how they follow (or don’t) the structure.


  5. Another nugget to add to my growing treasures of tips on writing well. Thanks, Cyn.


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