Using Action in Scenes

A common problem for first-time novelists is the tendency to create scenes where the characters talk about what they’ve done or are going to do. In real life we talk about our deeds–past, present or future–all the time. We gather around tables and yak ourselves blue in the face.
Writing Tip for Today: Why doesn’t talking about action work so well in fiction?
  • Reader Want to Experience Action. One very good writer wrote scenes about war, where the players were basically in the war room, pushing around those tiny ships and tanks. The problem? All talk and no work makes a dull story. We’ve all known someone who brags about stuff but never does anything. I think it’s this way in fiction too.
  • Beware the Table! As I’ve said before, too many scenes around a dinner table, bar, cafe in Paris or any sort of eating and drinking venue to reveal story is dangerous. The problem? Action becomes stagnant, minus the occasional sip or chew. And we all know you’re not supposed to talk with your mouth full.
  • What We Do Matters. In life and in fiction, it’s what we do that matters more than what we say. Learn to get your characters away from the table. If you find your character recounting past action a lot, resulting in the back story blues, maybe you’re not telling the right story or it doesn’t start in the right place. Take any scene you’ve written where the characters do little more than talk and reset it where the characters do something anything: garden, jog, work on a car, cook. If you set the scene in the kitchen, beware the sharp knives.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Using Action in Scenes

  1. Pingback: Writing NaNo Novels: Flash Dialogue - Linda S. Clare

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