Saturday, October 4, 2008

Lights! Camera! Action!

“Action” brings to mind a movie director starting the filming of a scene. Writers should keep that in mind when writing action whether in a love story, an adventure, or any other genre. Action should be included in scenes, framed portions included in the story line.

According to Betty Wilson Beamguard, (“Actions speak louder,” The Writer, September 2005), writers should step back and observe each scene being written as if the writer were a movie director. Each character in the scene should be active, doing things to enhance his words. The action activity should convey a message that fits.

“Narrative summary can drag down the pace, while physical movement, dialogue and scenes engage your reader,” says Jordan E. Rosenfeld in the February 2007 issue of the same magazine. He calls a scene a frame “a little ‘container’ of action and description that reveals plot information and engages the reader.”

Even when a story is given in written form, the reader should be able to “view” it, see what is happening, as if a drama or play is unfolding through the words in his mind. This need for action must be explored so that readers stay focused on the plot. Rosenfeld states, “What you put “onstage” in your scenes is what your audience members can see for themselves.” This action allows readers to participate and be affected by what happens.

If too much expository is used or the scene isn’t interesting, a reader becomes frustrated and starts skipping paragraphs, even pages. The author has, in effect, lost his audience, the reader. Most information given in descriptive or narrative paragraphs can be presented through dialogue and action, woven through the plot in a way to provide new information and to advance the story. The conflict, setting, setup, and “what happen next” components necessary for a good plot can be developed more interestingly through action (dialogue, movements and actions of characters, body and facial behavior).

One point that Quinn Dalton makes (The Writer, December 2006), “A scene’s action must be connected to the central concerns of the story.” Action needs to be connected to the plot, not thrown in just for the fun of it, as padding.
Action/adventure stories or novels, even poetry, requires some powerful action. The reader needs to “see” the chase, the fight, the escape. Short sentences with strong action verbs helps make the action tough and invigorating. That doesn’t mean that each sentence should be so short that the writing becomes too choppy, but long, complex or compound sentences distract from the action portrayed.

Authors need to think like movie directors and develop scenes of action that become visions in the minds of readers.

The next post will be an example of action as shown in one of my stories, a story that readers seem either to love or to hate: "Another Storm."

Writing and reading provides a way to bubble wrap life's experiences and help us escape, if only for a brief period.


Helen Ginger said...

Great way of looking at the action in your scene.

I'm looking forward to the example in your next post!

elysabeth said...

Wow - great way to express this. I touched on this topic the other day with the class while visiting and talking about the different ways to lead into a story, as well as their writing - to keep it active and not passive - I'm sharing with the class. - E :)

Vivian Zabel said...

After teaching writing for 27 years, I'm still learning ways to help others and myself how to keep writing active and interesting.