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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Action and Motivation vs. Reaction

One of the weaknesses I often see in storylines is that the reaction to a situation far outweighs the action and/or motivation behind the action. In romance novels, this happens with the couple fights over something insignificant that turns into WWIII for the entire novel. In suspense, this might happen when the motivation for the hero to get involved doesn’t justify his putting everything on the line when he really had nothing to lose in the first place, or perhaps in a cozy where the main character isn’t given a legitimate reason to risk his/her life to catch the murderer.

In our stories, we need our conflict to not only be legitimate but include stakes that are so high, there doesn’t seems to be a solution.

Tyndale’s website has some good insight to this. They want their stories to “include a compelling, threatening, external conflict or obstacle that H&H must overcome. . .Make sure H&H will lose something valuable if they are unable to overcome the obstacle. Make the stakes high enough that the reader can’t put the book down. Build—or at least sustain—the tension of your conflict throughout the entire story.”

High stakes, compelling external conflict. . .This is great advice.

So what’s the solution to finding that perfect reaction to your action?

Think of it like a teeter-totter with your action on one side and your reaction on the other. You need to make sure that your reaction (or action) doesn’t outweigh the other. Real conflict will balance out the reaction.

Right now I’m in the process of writing a suspense novel and one of the best resources I’ve found for this is at Randy Ingermanson’s site. If you don’t know about these tips, then do yourself a favor and check his writer’s tips out at http://www.rsingermanson.com.
At his site is great advice on how to structure a scene with MRU’s or Motivation- Reaction Units. In other words, how should your character react to conflict and disaster.

What does this mean for you? For a start, look at your own WIP and ask yourselves the following questions:

How can you up the conflict in your novel?
Does your h/h have legitimate motivation for risking his/her life?
Is your conflict legitimate and does it stretch out through the entire story?
Does our h/h have something to loose if he/she doesn’t reach his goal?
Does your h/h reaction match the situation, or are they simply overreacting?

Good luck!



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