Overly Dramatic Action

The action is heating up. You’re really into writing your novel. In fact, you’re so caught up by the elements that you’re going over each word you use, describing every little nuance, and going back to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

Sound familiar? Are you in the throes of that right now? How’s that action coming? Tense enough? Is the flow good? Are you writing an overly dramatic scene? Will your work soon be or already is so involved and detailed that no one except you will be interested in it?

Of course this sounds familiar. We’ve all done it at one point or another. We’ll pour over a scene, unable to move forward until every detail is right.

The action is coming along very well, you respond. I’ve spent days and weeks getting it just right. It is the best scene I’ve ever written. So, yes, it’s tense enough. The flow is marvelous.

Step back from the screen. Put that baby away right now. Wait a week and read your work again. You will now be able to answer the last question truthfully.

Has your work become so involved and detailed that no one except you will be interested in it?

This is what we call an overly dramatic action. You’ve lost the thread of the plot and made the tense moment become the definition of your book. Your reader abandoned this book fifteen paragraphs back because they were lost and confused.

What’s the cure for overly dramatic action?

Take a break. Work on something else. Go for a run around the block several times. Shop with friends. Do anything that will allow you to clear your mind of this scene and then look at it with a fresh perspective.

That’s when you get out the editing pen and clear out the extraneous and unnecessary action. Yes, action must be defined but not overly so. In a fight, we don’t need to see every fist thrown by all the characters involved. A car wreck doesn’t need each character in the vehicle to be described down to the minute detail of someone’s sunglasses ending up on their forehead or that streak or red lipstick going from the corner of their lip to their nose. All we need to see and feel is what your main character is experiencing.

Remember this—during tense scenes, your main character will be focused on one thing. They will be struggling through a tough moment. Their attention should be focused on themselves, on their survival. This means that every element within a fifty or hundred foot radius isn’t necessary to detail. All you should be concerned with is what is right in front of your character’s face.


Gaby Pratt said…
Good advice. . .thanks!

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