REBLOG: “Do your characters act naturally?”

The Cycle of Action-Reaction in Novel Scenes

Get Your Characters Acting Naturally

I decided to write a post about this because, yet again, in a current manuscript I’ve been critiquing, I am writing in the the comments: “What’s his reaction? How does this make him feel? You’re in his head, so what is he thinking?”

I can’t tell you how many times I write this (or something similar). Which tells me this is a problem for some writers. More like an oversight.

Writers get so busy elaborating on plot in scenes, they don’t stop to consider what’s important. And that’s conveying a realistic flow of behavior for their characters.

Even with fast-action scenes, there is time for this “action-reaction” cycle.

Some instructors put it this way: There’s an action (something happens, such as a character hears a loud crash). Your character reacts (she runs outside and sees a spaceship stuck in her garage). Then she processes (which can take one line or an entire chapter—that’s going to vary depending on many factors) what she just experienced (thinks, emotes, feels). That processing then turns to a new action (run, scream, faint, pull out your smartphone).

So this cycle is essentially action-reaction-process-decision. Repeat.

[Read more from the original post: The Cycle of Action-Reaction in Novel Scenes]

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  1. authorbarbara


    I think half the problem is that many writers are so obsessed with ‘show don’t tell’ that they feel explaining how someone feels is breaking that rule. And breaking that rule is tantamount to breaking The Law. I’m a big fan of show don’t tell, but inexperienced authors can either smash it to smithereens with their constant ‘telling’ of everything or adhere to it so closely that nothing is explained, no emotion explored in-depth.
    A great post, thank you for sharing (or sharing again 😉 )

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