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Thread: What is action?

  1. #11
    Glen T. Brock

    Re: What is action?

    Hello folks,

    You have one paragraph to hook the reader. Sometimes you don't even have that.

    Action doesn't neccessarily mean violence. Action should stimulate the story. In most erotic stories the narrative is stimulated by voyeurism. The idea that someone observes something either by accident or stealth hooks the reader. In a crime novel the same effect is established by a crime (not neccessarily THE crime). What does a crime novel have to do with an erotic novel? Both give the reader anticipation of things to come.

    The best action novels compound one hook after another, taking the reader on a roller coaster ride of anticipation followed by more anticipation. Richard Stark (who is Dennis Westlake) is an excellent example of action writing.

    Glen T. Brock

  2. #12
    the cat came back

    Re: What is action?

    Get the story engine started as soon as possible.

  3. #13
    the cat came back

    Re: What is action?

    When someone wants something and tries to get it, that's action. When they are opposed, that's dram.


  4. #14
    Mandy Pauza

    Re: What is action?

    "Man," said Terl, "is an endangered species." -L. Ron Hubbard

    "As I left Kenya Beanstalk capsule he was right on my heels. He followed me through the door leading to Customs and Immigration. As the door contracted behind him I killed him." -Robert A. Heinlein

    "I was never particularly keen on my job before the day I got shot and nearly lost it." -Dick Francis

    "He knew every square inch of his property, all twenty acres. Every tree. Every building. Especially every secret hiding place." -Anne Rule

    "The two things Sarah remembered about that night later were his run of luck at the Wheel of Fortune and the mask. But as time passed, years of it, it was the mask she thought about- when she could bring to think about that horrible night at all." -Stephen King

    "Streaker is limping like a dog on three legs. We took a chancy jump through hyperdrive yesterday, a step ahead of the Galactics who are chasing us." -David Brin

    "A small lizard perched on a brown stone. Feeling threatened by the approach of human beings along the path it metamorphosed into a stingray beetle, then into a stench puffer, then into a firey salamander." -Piers Anthony

    7 beginnings by top authors… spanning over 60 years and several different genres, including non-fiction. It isn’t about today’s ‘age of instant gratification’ but has been true of good writing for about the last century. It doesn’t mean you have to hook on the first sentence… though I have heard the L. Ron Hubbard line was actually proof that it could be done, a bet between fellow writers. The point is that there isn’t a thousand words of encyclopedia entries setting up the story as I’ve seen in most of story starts I’ve read here. The point to writing is story, not how many words you ‘throw against the page.’

    Does it mean creating conflict from the first sentence? -Sometimes

    Does it mean minimizing setting? -Maybe

    Does it mean getting to dialogue quickly? –Possibly

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

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

    It means getting to the story, the plot, the arc, as quickly as possible. Each of these novels hooked me in the number of words I’ve shown here. Look at a ‘classic’ by comparison:

    “A few miles south of Soledad, the Salinas River drops in close to the hillside bank and runs deep and green. The water is warm too, for it has slipped twinkling over the yellow sands in the sunlight before reaching the narrow pool. On one side of the river the golden foothill slopes curve up to the strong and rocky Gabilan mountains, but on the valley side the water is lined with trees--willows fresh and green with every spring, carrying in their lower leaf junctures the debris of the winter's flooding; and sycamores with mottled, white, recumbent limbs and branches that arch over the pool. On the sandy bank under the trees the leaves lie deep and so crisp that a lizard makes a great skittering if he runs among them. Rabbits come out of the brush to sit on the sand in the evening, and the damp flats are covered with the night tracks of 'coons, and with the spread pads of dogs from the ranches, and with the split-wedge tracks of deer that come to drink in the dark.” –John Stienbeck, Of Mice And Men

    Blah Blah Blah. I hated this book. It started off with 182 words of description before weakly introducing the story. This is the standard most high school graduates think ‘fiction’ should reach for. I say ‘The king has no clothes,’ and most modern publishers feel the same way. Just don’t mention it to your high school English teacher, it will give her a coronary.

  5. #15
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: What is action?

    Richard Stark (who is Dennis Westlake)

    Would that be any relation to Donald Westlake...?

  6. #16
    Dave S

    Re: What is action?

    Thanks all, for your interesting and illuminating responses!

  7. #17
    Anthony Ravenscroft

    Re: What is action?

    Dave, the demand for "action" is hardly a new phenomenon. As Mandy demonstrates, it's important for any writer -- but especially the unpublished -- to grab the reader's attention ASAP, & hold it like a bulldog with lockjaw.

    I read lit-fic, & I read long booooooring philosophical & economic tomes, & I read plenty of cheap mystery & cookie-cutter science fiction. If you're trying to sell a piece in one of those markets, chances that the same piece could sell in one of the other two are probably less than zero. In lit-fic, you can get away with long intros, setting the tone, painting the background, & all that stuff -- of course, "success" in lit-fic is often in the range of 1,500 total sales, so be advised.

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