Sequencing human interaction #AuthorToolboxBlogHop

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Thank you Raimey!


When we speak, a series of steps has already occurred:

  • An external action
  • An emotional reaction
  • A thought blooms from the above mentioned steps.

The result is return dialogue or reactive action.

It’s human nature.

Writing scenes and paragraphs should ideally follow the same logic we use when we speak or react.

Writer’s Digest suggests: “… get your reader to invest emotionally in your character, and you’ve laid the foundation for every action scene.”

A year ago, I came across a writing article on sequencing sentences. I hadn’t thought about the pattern of action, emotion, thought and reaction. I didn’t know how much it mattered until I wrote for it. I wish I could find the article and share it today. *Big shoulder sigh.* I lost it in the move to my new home over the summer.

Consider two examples:

Example One

    The moment Henry stepped out of the door of his apartment complex, he shivered with a chill then violently sneezed three times. With his shoulders arched up, he froze under the awning. Germs. He hated them. They hated him. Or at least he’d pictured it as an even exchange to survive.

   Henry’s hand trembled as he reached into his back pocket for his hand sanitizer, but stopped short with his thumb resting on the ridges of the cap. Something in the wind drew him. A cry so soft it couldn’t be a man or woman. A lamb? No, not in L.A. 

   He listened, shuffling down another couple of steps to the paved walkway.

   There. In the shadows. The barely there cry came again.

Example Two

    The moment Henry stepped out the door of his apartment complex, he shivered with a chill then violently sneezed three times. He removed his sanitizer from his back pocket and shuffled down the steps. Cars zoomed past the street. The wind tickled his nose. He shuffled backwards and peered around the corner of the building. He swore he heard a sound. A cry. Soft, like a lamb, urgent and hungry.

What’s Different?

    In the first example, Henry is moving, leaving his apartment when an outside irritant stings his nose and he sneezes (external influence/action).  He hates sneezing (thinking). He reacts to his phobia of germs and reaches in his pocket for his hand sanitizer (result of what we are thinking).

    In the second passage, we go from action to action to action. We miss a point about the character. We miss his phobia. We miss the connection between the first action and the second action. Then we miss the reason why he turned and went back to the building.

   So as we write, don’t forget motive, intention, and the process which leads our characters into action. Write for logic and sequence.

About Erika Beebe

Author, dreamer, and a momma to a couple of wonderful kids, I try to live life everyday in hope and inspire others along my way.

Posted on April 18, 2018, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 42 Comments.

  1. Louise@DragonspireUK

    Great post and great examples 🙂 The first one brings the scene to life so much more!

  2. A great reminder 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Ronel visiting from the Author Toolbox blog hop. Latest post at Ronel the Mythmaker

  3. The first one definitely has more impact. Breaking it up into several paragraphs also helps.

  4. I like this a lot because it is easy to remember and apply. Action, emotion, thought & reaction– got it!

  5. I love posts that give examples. It’s so much easier to remember the tip.

  6. The first example is much better–it paints Henry exactly as he is, a germaphobe. In the second example I would just assume he has a cold.

  7. Great examples – it really helps to illustrate the tip. Love that Michener quote too.

  8. Excellent tip and example! There is just so much to this writing stuff. I learn something new every day.

  9. Reactions, internal and external, really do introduce us to the characters. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  10. Victoria Marie Lees

    It’s always about the why, the internal. Why does what happens in the present story action matter to your character? A great post. Thanks, Erika!

  11. Action to action is a lot like telling.

  12. Adding reactions, physical cues, and inner dialogue can really make a difference.

  13. Good advice. When inspiration strikes, I write fast, putting in dialogue, then going back and adding thoughts and action. We have to remember to think of the reader and clue her in to the logic of the scene.

  14. Great post, Erika. I know most of my proto-draft is action to action. I go back and layer in the character building, world building, and most of the description. I do most of the structuring instinctively, but I will definitely take a look again and see if I am following this pattern. I am really curious about that article now. If you remember it, I would love to know what it was.

  15. Excellent tips and advice! Thanks for sharing!

  16. What a stark difference between the paragraphs. Great example, Erika, and a sequence that I hadn’t actually thought about before. Now I have to run back to my WIP and see if I’ve been lucky. Ha ha. Thanks for the great tip!

  17. I’m definitely not getting the same emotional connection to the second example. Love how you pointed all this out. I hadn’t heard this before. Thanks!

  18. Great reminder and examples! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  19. Great set of examples. It’s a really subtle thing, but also very important. As with many things, I think it’s easy to miss if someone doesn’t point it out through contrast. Ironically I often learn more from reading weaker stories, realizing through absence what goes into a great story.
    Thank you for sharing.

  20. Excellent point about understanding the reasons behind character actions. We as authors need to be sure that we let the readers in on the secrets!

  21. Excellent reminder! Thank you for sharing!

  22. What a great tip for writers. Thank you for the examples to help explain what you mean. I recently have been checking my writing for reactions of my characters. This plan brings even more richness to the writing. Going to share this with my writing group. Thank you.
    JQ Rose

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