Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Chain Reactions


So sorry I didn't post something Monday. I have been on a deadline for my next book, and I had to get some rewrites to my editor. I'm back on track now.

Last week we studied the chronology of emotion. This week let’s think about chain reactions. And not just any reactions, but the reactions of your protagonist. This is the person whose eyes your reader sees the world through, so it’s very important to have that character react logically and in the right order. This may seem redundant to what we’ve covered, but it isn’t. What we are going to zero in on is a chain reaction of: cause, feeling, action and thought/speech. If your character doesn’t react in that sequence your work will feel choppy and disjointed.

Let's use some scenes from my book, River Whispers, so you can see what I mean.

The night was suddenly rent with the heart-stopping sound of gun shot. Regi dropped to the ground, hugging the cold, wet earth. Snow froze her cheek. Her breath came in cold puffs. Someone was shooting at her.

First we have the cause of this chain reaction: the gun shot. Next we have feeling, which is automatic: Regi dropped to the ground. Feeling is something that logically happens. When Regi hears the shot she automatically dropped to the ground. You couldn’t very well have Regi drop to the ground and then hear the shot because the reaction would be out of sync. The same holds true for the snow freezing her cheek. Her cheek couldn’t freeze without being cold thus the snow comes first. After feeling follows action: Her breath came in cold puffs. And on it’s heels thought: Someone was shooting at her.

Another example:

Trying to keep her anger in check, she felt like a wild horse stuck in a trap-corral. Regi forced herself to relax and smile. “Tanner, no one else wants that land. You are so full of...baloney!”

Do you see the chain reactions? The cause: to keep her anger in check. The feeling: she felt like a wild horse stuck in a trap-corral. Now the action: Regi forced herself to relax and smile. And then the thought/speech: “Tanner, no one else wants that land. You are so full of…baloney!”

In the next paragraph is another chain reaction. Pick out the cause, the feeling, the action and the thought/speech.

Regi stared him in the eyes. He glared back. Tanner was serious. Razor-sharp anger sliced her good intentions to shreds. “I sold you the cattle, my prized horse, the farming equipment, even the river land. You promised me you’d wait five years.”

See, it's not so tough. The cause: Tanner was serious. The feeling: Razor-sharp anger sliced her good intentions to shreds. The action: (no action?). The thought/speech: "I sold you the cattle..."

I threw you a curve since there wasn't action. But the action is combined with her thought/speech. Yes, that happens sometimes and I wanted you to see it here. Action and thought/speech can be combined, but you always have cause before feeling. Always!

Now try it on something you have written.

If you always strive to have your writing follow a logical chain reaction, then your work will read smoothly and your readers will be anxious for more.

Happy writing!

6 comments:

  1. These are such excellent series on creating believable order in your writing. Thank you!

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  2. What a beautiful blog you have Kathi. Wow. And such great information too. I'll be back!

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  3. Thank you! This is really good, Kathi. I learn from all of you!

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  4. Thanks, Jodi! I learn from you all the time.:)

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