Tag Archives: active

And…. Action!

We’ve touched on the idea of using action verbs instead of more passive verbs in an earlier post. And we’ve touched on being active vs passive overall. This post is going to address using the actual structure of your writing to imply action. All of these tools are important in writing.

In the past, writing was a much more cerebral process. (I’m talking quite a while ago, as in the times before the internet, when many stories were published as serials in magazines and such.) Now the written word competes with so much; movies, TV, video games, audio books, and the biggest time drain, the internet. So it has to move, capture and keep the interest of the readers. But you know all of this, so let me get to the meat of this post….

Which of the following paragraphs is better?

She knew that the monster followed her. She could hear the footsteps echoing in the empty chamber behind her. She ran as fast as she could, but the footsteps stayed right behind her; almost as if it were following her step for step. Her breath came in huffs even louder and faster. Her heart raced even faster then her footsteps trying to pound out of her chest. She could feel the fear of the situation swallow her up. Then she tripped and pain shot up her leg originating from her ankle. She brought her hand up to her mouth to stifle a cry in pain.

It chased her. The footsteps echoed behind her. She sped as fast as she could. The footsteps stayed with her. Step for step. She huffed harder. Louder. Faster. Her heart raced faster then her footsteps. Pounding. Fear swallowed her. She tripped. Pain shot through her ankle. She stifled a cry.

Both express the same idea, but the second makes feelings more visceral for the reader. The shorter sentences brings the reader into the story, actually making the reading faster as the girl is moving faster. It is more engaging and creates more of a page turner.

In movies and in TV, the director can add mood altering music to do the same thing. Watch your favorite movie or TV show and instead of paying more attention to what is being said, pay attention to the music. As the action increases the music gets faster with more beats and usually louder too.

As writers we are trying to do the same thing with the structure of the words that we write. Do you have to do this? Absolutely not. However, it will add a dimension to your story that the reader will subconsciously ‘get’.

Now of course if you did this throughout the whole manuscript it would get old and the effect would be lost. So use it sparingly, but use it when you need to, especially in action scenes. But don’t forget this as a tool. If you use it right, the added effect with strengthen your writing.

Don’t forget that if you have questions, you can join us for a free conference call the last Saturday of each month. This month it will be the 23rd, this Saturday, at 10 a.m. mountain time, which is 11 a.m. central time. To join us, email me at the address below for the phone # and code to access the free call. Come visit with us!

Stay tuned…

Angela Abderhalden
Acquiring Editor
Seventh Wave Books, LLC


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Show, Don’t Tell

If you’ve been a writer for more than a few days, you’ve heard the saying, ‘Show, don’t tell.” It’s one of those things that every writer hears- over and over and over again. It’s an axiom, a chant, a truth… a law.

And although some laws are made to be broken, don’t break this law. At least most of the time. As a new or beginning author, you need, no you must have this law on your mind at all times. Here’s why- Show is active. It engages the reader in the story. Telling is passive. It doesn’t make the reader part of the story. (More about active versus passive in another blog real soon.)

Let me give you an example:

John was mad. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Wally had tried to calm him down but John wouldn’t listen.

“What?” John slammed the door and stalked over to Wally’s desk. He deliberately placed both hands flat on the desk, leaning closer to Wally. “What are you talking about? How can-”
“Calm down, man,” Wally said holding his hands out, palms toward John. “It isn’t that bad. The last thing-”
“Calm down! Calm down! That contract was mine. That little weasel-”
“John, would you listen to me! The contract is still yours. Fred only went-”
John pounded a fist on the desk cutting Wally off. The red flash brightened on John’s cheeks. His voice deepened even as it ratcheted up a notch in volume. “No one is supposed to work my contracts. No one!”

Do you see the difference? The first one, telling, doesn’t engage the reader in the story. Very passive. Is the reader caught up in the action in the telling? No.

But with the showing, the reader gets involved in the action. The reader figures out that John is mad and won’t listen. The reader might even put themselves in the scene because everyone can relate to being this mad at something. You are engaging the reader in the story. Absolutely vital.

Since the reader is engaged they are less likely to put the book down or stop reading. And this is something that you never, ever want your reader to do.

Stay tuned.

Angela Abderhalden is the author of the Mel Addison Mystery Series and is an Acquiring Editor for Seventh Wave Books, LLC.

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