Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wednesday Writings: Action/Reaction

Action and reaction, are vital to good storytelling. A good story balances these two forces and creates a realistic effect on even the most outrageous of ideas.

This particular topic is not new, and generally not controversial - to tell a good story, the character acts against something, or the character reacts to something being done to him/her. It is a deep-rooted instinct to do one of those two things. For example:

Queen Suzy went to an art museum (action). An assassin tries to kill her and steal her crown, but she fights back (reaction). The assassin is defeated by her superior ninja skills (action). The Queen does a victory dance, then flees the museum in case of any more potential killers (reaction).

Queen Suzy is the main character, and she acts. When she acts, something comes to stop her, and she reacts. Simple as that.

Maybe your character doesn't know what has tried to stop him/her, and therefore cannot react. Maybe they do know, and can do nothing. Either way, no action/reaction. But by law (scientific, physics, behavioral, whatever) doing nothing is a reaction. So therefore, even when your MC does nothing, the action/reaction cycle continues.

The problem, then, is when the action/reaction is not connected. For example:

Tom walks into the garden (action). He fights a troll (action). The troll enters the garden, and when he spots it, Tom fights it (reaction). Tom was only in the garden in the first place because he wanted some fresh air (action).

This is bad, because there is an unequal amount of action/reaction, and it causes unnecessary redundancy. Also, it's out of order, which confuses the reader. The events are not well-connected, and makes for a poor paragraph.

Although I understand that not all stories are told in chronological order, there has to at least be some coherency and rules to define your frequent flashbacks/etc. Think If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

I'm not sure what else to tell you about this concept - it's simple when you recognize it and manage to coherently manipulate it.

Stay strong and write on.

(Hey, it DOES kind of go along with the topic.)


  1. Wonderful post. Action and reaction are vital and yet, I (for one) take this for granted sometimes.

  2. Great post! Though it is a simple concept, so many times people dont recognize it or just ignore it all together.