Wednesday, April 1, 2015

A to Z Challenge: A is for Action

Welcome to April. With its customary showers comes the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. For those who are unfamiliar with it:
The brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out, the A to Z Challenge is posting every day in April except Sundays (we get those off for good behavior.) And since there are 26 days, that matches the 26 letters of the alphabet. On April 1, blog about something that begins with the letter “A.” April 2 is “B,” April 3 is “C,” and so on. You can use a theme for the month or go random – just as long as it matches the letter of the alphabet for the day. (Source) 
The A to Z Challenge is a great way to get into the blogging habit and make new friends. For more details and its history, go HERE 

My theme this year is EDITING

I'll be posting practical advice for editing any story, novel, or other piece of writing. Editing is something most authors struggle with, and after years of doing my own as well as that of others, I have a pretty good eye for what needs work. I'll be doing short posts on editing topics and (hopefully) dispensing simple, valuable advice to help everyone out there self-edit.

A is for Action!

When we talk about action, there are really two kinds. 1) General action meaning bodily movement, as in action vs. dialogue or narrative. 2) Action can also be specific to a type of scene, as in an action scene rather than one where characters sit around, talking.

I'm going to give some quick tips for editing both kinds of action.

General Action:

1. Break up any long, narrative paragraphs with some action. It doesn't have to be much to keep your readers' attention and keep them grounded in the scene. 

Having your characters actually do something is easier to follow and more compelling than description or narrative. Sometimes in a story, we need a few blocky paragraphs, whether to describe something, tell back story, or otherwise use narrative to get your point across. However, too much of this will bore your readers. 

Example: Say you have a character who is walking around the city, thinking hard. They're either remembering a previous event (back story), thinking about some plan they're about to implement (story through narrative thoughts) or just observing the city around them (description of setting). 

Whatever it is, make sure you have at least one action per paragraph. Breaking up the character's thoughts with them turning a corner, scratching an ear, or quickening their pace can work wonders for your scene. It keeps the reader grounded, reminds them that this is part of a story, rather than just an editorial of the author's thoughts.

2. Put a call to action on your endings. Whether it's a chapter ending, a section ending, or a novel ending (the exception being the final novel in a series) always put a call to action of some kind on it. Propel the reader into the next part of the story. What is about to happen? What will the character or villain do next? What is inevitable? What must be done before catastrophe strikes? Ending your sections this way will drive the reader nuts until they can continue reading. 


Action Scene - 7 Editing Tips:

(See this post out for more fleshed out tips.)

1. Remember the 3 Acts - Every action scene has three parts: the setup, the actual fight, and the recovery. All three must be complete for the action scene to be effective.

2. Write chunky - Short, chunky sentences heighten tension and suspense. Long, wordy sentences will slow down the flow of your action.

3. Heightened senses - When in the middle of intense action, all five human senses are heightened. Everything is more vivid and clear. Writing these heightened senses into the scene will help the reader experience it with the characters.

4. Reaction, reaction, reaction - Major action is a time for your characters to react to what is going on around them. Even if they are on the offensive, they are still reacting to their circumstances. Show reaction, especially the chain reaction of events if you can.

5. Avoid interpretive narrative - Just like you want your sentences short and chunky, if the character is too much in their own head, thinking through what is happening, it will slow your action. Get them out of their heads, having visceral reactions to what is happening around them. There will be time to hash out consequences later.

6. Hash out environment - Just as with interpretive narrative, setting description will slow  down your scene. Describe the surroundings before the action happens (if possible) and then remind the reader of it by using the setting in the action. Have your characters bump into things in their setting. Have them lean against walls or trees, fall and take in the scent of the ground, etc., to get a better feel for the setting without actually stopping to describe it.

7. Reality of injuries and adrenaline - While in a state of heightened adrenaline, injuries won't be felt as keenly, if at all. Once the adrenaline crashes (after the action) then the injuries will crash home. Keep this in mind while writing your character(s)' recovery.

Bonus tip: Have fun! Action is a blast to write!

How do you handle editing action?