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Friday, January 27, 2012

Action Before Reaction by Janice Seagraves

Action before reaction 
By Janice Seagraves 
My book
Going through edits for the first time was an eye opening experience to my own mistakes.

Have you ever written anything like this?

Example: Megan screamed as a big, ugly boar stuck its head in the tent opening. 

Do you see what's wrong here?

I didn’t.

My editor pointed out that Megan reacts by screaming, before the action. The boar’s head is even in the tent yet, before she's screaming her head off.

 Always, she told me, remember action before reaction.

Correct: A big, ugly boar stuck its head through the tent opening. Megan screamed.

Always put the action first.

Whether you follow up with action, emotion or internal thought, the action (boar) that provoked the reaction (scream) has to come first.

Ah, I got it.

Here’s the scene with the corrections:

Correct: Just as the sky started to lighten, Megan woke to a grunt and a rustling noise just outside her tent. “Who’s there?” She quickly unzipped her tent.

A big, ugly boar stuck its head through the opening. Megan screamed.

“Huh?” grunted the scarred boar. It tried to hook her with its tusk.

“Get out! Get out!” Megan shrieked, scrambling back to reach under her pillow. She heard something ripping as she jerked her head back to the tent opening.

The pig had gotten a tusk stuck in the tent’s door flap. It whipped its head back and forth, trying to get loose.

“Damn wanker,” she yelled. “You’re tearing my tent.”


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Fran Lee said...

So that's how it works! I've often wondered... LOL! Great post!

Tina Donahue said...

I have this same problem with my first drafts all the time. I'll read what I've written and it doesn't sound quite right and then I think - ah, I need a reaction here AFTER the stuff happened.

Great post, Janice.

Liz said...

great tip....I tend to have simultaneous action and reaction.
damn wild pigs.

jean hart stewart said...

Loved that scene. Will have to go over the first draft I'm writing of my next book and check for that. Betcha I'm guilty

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Fran,

Yup. :)

Hi Tina,

Yeah, its an easy thing to do in a first draft.

Hi Liz,

A simple period before the reaction can help that.
Damn pigs.

Hi Jean,

I hope my post helped you spot 'em.


M. S. Spencer said...

Thank God--I was afraid you were going to use my first reaction to your Effect/Affect post as an example of reaction before action. Whew! btw, I love the word wanker. Meredith

Sandy said...

I have done the same thing many times. Does it have something to do with being left or right brain. lol

Hywela Lyn said...

I'm going to have to check my WIP too - I'm sure I've done this without realising, so easy to do!

Angela Kay Austin said...

Great post. I enjoyed it.

Deb Sanders said...

I know this rule. Truly, I do. So why is it so hard to follow when I'm writing? LOL Thanks for the reminder!

BonSue Brandvik said...

This is an easy mistake to make, especially when you're trying to not to be too wordy. Thanks for the reminder!

Brenda J Weaver said...

great lesson Janice...very good to remember

Ginger Simpson said...

Yep, I've blogged on this lesson before. There's just so much to remember. :) Good post, Janice.

Janice Seagraves said...

Now, Meredith, would I do that to you?

Hi Sandy,

I don't know, but that is a very good question.

Hi Hywela,

Well, this sort of thing is very easy to slip into your writing. Especially if your writing hard and fast.

Hi Angela,

Thank you.

Hi Deb,

Your welcome.

Hi Bonsue,

That's true. And your welcome.

Hi Brenda,

Thank you.

Hi Ginger,

Thank you and isn't that the truth?


Celtic Chick said...

It's easy to miss stuff like that. You aren't alone. I think we are blind to our own work because we are too close to it.
'As' is one of those crutch words that can get a writer into trouble if not used right.

Sharon Hamilton said...

Great to have this reminder. No, I probably wouldn't have caught it either. Funny how it's easier to find it in someone else's work, than my own. Thanks for the post.

Janice Seagraves said...

Hi Kelley,

Your right about "As" you have to use it carefully.

Hi Sharon,

That's why it helps to have another set of eyes on your work.


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