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Thread: What is action?

  1. #1
    Dave S

    What is action?

    I've heard that in this age of instant gratification, publishers are looking for books that leap right into the action. I'm trying to figure out exactly what this means.

    Does it mean creating conflict from the first sentence?

    Does it mean minimizing setting?

    Does it mean getting to dialogue quickly?

    Does it mean minimizing back story and getting right to the meat of the plot?

    Does it mean a car chase, fight scene, or a murder on the first page?

    Any comments and feedback appreciated.

  2. #2
    Keith Bouchard

    Re: What is action?

    I think, mainly, it means that they don't want to start off a book with too much background info immediately telling the reader this is this because of that, etc. They want something that isn't telling, just showing.

  3. #3
    Douglas Gismondi

    Re: What is action?

    I think that action is movement, you know something that is taking you somewhere. Maybe to a place or time outside of the room you are sitting in reading that book. Action needs to transport us into the writers mind or eyes. That way we can see what you see. That is why we read action; for the adventure. The writer needs to be the "tour guide", if you will, in this foreign land.
    Hell, it is whatever you think it is. That is the beauty of being a writer, it is your world. One thing is certain, be who you are inside, the true you, and you honesty and passion will get people to read your stuff, whatever it is.

  4. #4
    Keith .

    Re: What is action?

    My opinion. Describe with an action, characterize by an action. Action happens before the reader's eyes. It's immediate, not backstory, and the author isn't telling the reader about it. Don't explain it. Let it come out in the action. If you can't film it, it's not action. And no, it doesn't have to be a car chase etc. For example, you can experience a character's embarrassment through action.

  5. #5
    Finnley Wren

    Re: What is action?

    First sentence of The Da Vinci Code:

    Renowned curator Jacques Saunière staggered through the vaulted archway of the museum's Grand Gallery.

    First sentence of Angels and Demons:

    Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

    Say what you want, but they seemed to work.

    Here is a listing of the first lines to Richard Stark's Parker books. You could do a lot worse. I know I do!

  6. #6
    Number One

    Re: What is action?

    "Bang, bang, bang, bang. Four shots ripped into my groin and I was off on the greatest adventure of my life . . . "

    Max Schulman opened his book "Sleep Till Noon" this way because he hought it was a good way to setart a book. Of course, it has nothing to do with the story . . . the next line's:

    "But first let me tell you a little about myself."

    Poking fun at the "start in the middle of the action" philosophy, I think he was . . .

  7. #7
    Ray Veen

    Re: What is action?

    Don't overthink it.

    As Stephen King says, "the story's the boss." As long as the beginning isn't loaded down with exposition, you should be okay.

  8. #8
    Rogue Mutt

    Re: What is action?

    You know what they say: sh*t happens.

  9. #9
    Joe Zeff

    Re: What is action?

    Read the opening of Moby Dick. It starts off with Ishmail introducing himself and explaining why he'd decided to go to sea. It's interesting because it reveals something of the narrator, but nothing really happens until he gets to town. By today's standards, that's not good because of the two words, "nothing happens."

    Now, as a comparison, let me give you the opening line only of a highly regarded book written about fifty years ago or so:

    If I had cared to live, I would have died.

    Something has happened. What? We don't know, yet. Would you read on to find out what that was and what the narrator meant?

  10. #10
    d. Leroy

    Re: What is action?

    I don't think it needs to be guns blazing and all that - I think it just needs to spark a reader's interest. Something that draws them in.

    My opinion, comparing the classics to today's market will only frustrate most folks. Even though the line Joe put up there was a great example of an opening that stimulates curiosity.


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