The classic story arc requires rising action to keep a novel progressing toward its climax. For the first-time novelist (and even some experienced novelists), rising action can be harder to implement than to talk about.
Writing Tip for Today: What kinds of action should a writer consider in the novel?
- Keep Characters in Motion. In my editorial business, I see a lot of scenes where the characters are sitting around talking about action. Novels about military maneuvers or battles are especially vulnerable–the characters are standing around in the war room talking about what they are going to do. I think it’s better to either act out the battle itself (at least in part) or skip it. Limit scenes of mostly dialogue, and beware the “let’s have a cuppa tea” scene where characters sit around and gab. In real life we do spend a lot of time around tables, eating and drinking, but in a novel you limit the action by using this vehicle too often.
- Manage Time Accounting. Never say your character is bored, has nothing to do or that a time period is uneventful. Just skip to the next event. What does it accomplish to suggest that anything in your story isn’t exciting, tense or full of conflict. My opinion is that by putting a “boring idea” in your reader’s head, you risk their putting down your story.
- Rising Action Means the Stakes Get Higher. Finally, in order to present rising action, the novel writer must present tension that keeps growing. This doesn’t mean things have to explode or burn down. It just means that your narrator must be increasingly agitated, worried or stressed over each new development. And every development must inch the character closer to the goal.