Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday's Writer's Tip - Patterns in Action

Action doesn't mean just fights and car chases and other scenes with physical action being the focus. Action is what moves the story forward. Action isn't just a series of scenes that are connected. When I first began writing I thought I knew what I was doing. After many wonderful rejections where the editors kindly wrote about one thing I was doing wrong. I remember one that I read. "If you start with a bomb or a riot where the hero and heroine are threatened with death, what are you going to write next that pulls the reader along." This hit me that action is a progression. No matter what kind of story you're writing each action in the story must lead to the next one and must increase the stakes for the characters.

Action builds tension and gains momentum in a story. This requires pacing. A fellow writer once read my sort of 'Medical suspense" Obsessions and remarked on a look we both belonged to. "Janet is a master at pacing." This totally surprised me because I wasn't sure what he meant. I did a whole lot of study about what pacing meant. This story starts with the unnamed villain watching the hospital parking lot and failing to achieve his goal. Not much later, the heroine discovers the body of a nat so nice fellow worker in the "orthopedic" storage room. This is the triggering situation and the deaths begin. Each one comes closer to the heroine and so the tension builds. Especially when the heroine receives gifts left my an unnamed admirer. These gifts are the typical ones one mught see in a courtship. This added another layer of tension, yet these scenes weren't physically active.

So as you write each scene think about what the scene contributes to the building finale of the story. If a scene doesn't really add to the tension, take it out or change it until you can feel the tentsion rising. Sort of like Slowly he walked and so forth. Build a pattern and make sure each scene advances not only the story but also the tension. Don't give away too much too soon and don't delay too long. Actions show the pattern of cause and effect.


Roseanne Dowell said...

great writing tips. Thanks for sharing.

Pat Dale said...

Excellent food for thought. As I musician, I liken the pacing of action to a musical manuscript, with crescendos and dimuendos as well as other dynamic markings. All with a steady progression of increased tension, leading to the climax.
Proper pacing is the key to reader involvement.

Janice Seagraves said...

That's very good advice on increasing tension, and I like that editor's advice to you.

So many writers do the explosion thing at the very beginning to grab the readers attention, but what could you possible follow that up with? An A-bomb maybe?


JL Walters said...

Pat, I used to compose music so I know what you mean.