Action and Result

I’ve been reading tips on writing – not anything genre specific, just anything to do with the craft of writing.

Most of what I’ve read today is common sense, or maybe just stuff that I’ve known for a while which makes me think it is common sense. But then I came across a small tip that reads:

Present action in action-result order.

Example: She looks – and sees. He bites – and tastes. She asks – he answers. The arrow hits him – he cries out.

–from “Fiction Makeover” by Evan Marshall

Again, common sense, but this particular tip is something I needed reminding of and I thought I’d share it with you too.

But, there are always exceptions to rules so when you want to hold suspense for a moment longer, here’s another tip:

To show a character’s reaction to something shocking, break the action/result rule and show the reaction before describing what is being reacted to.

Example: She opened her mouth to call out but as she stepped forward the beam of her flashlight dropped and she gasped in horror. Marcel lay in the green bath tub, his eyes turned vacantly to the ceiling. Blood spattered the sides of the tub…

–from “Fiction Makeover” by Evan Marshall and example excerpt from “A Palm for Mrs. Pollifax” by Dorothy Gilman

In the above instance, to describe the scene and then the reaction would create a sensation of a delayed reaction and possibly the reader detaching from the character.

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