Are you ready to write like a D.R.A.G.O.N.? In this six part series, you’ll learn what it takes to step up your writing game and embrace your inner D.R.A.G.O.N.! In this third installment, let’s examine why A stands for Action. If you’re having a tough time keeping readers engaged and making your story metaphorically jump off the page, here are 5 ways to improve:
1. Show, don’t tell.
Now, I bet you’re rolling your eyes at me for giving you one of the oldest (and most common) writing tips around. But the reason it’s used so much is because it’s necessary. You can’t keep readers engaged if you don’t show what’s happening in your story, and a lot of that boils down to character action. Whether your characters are jumping out of a burning building or having a screaming match with their significant others, it’s all about action. D.R.A.G.O.N. writers flex those writing muscles and show the important details of action and reaction in any story situation.
2. Make sure the action furthers the story.
Action is the backbone of your story’s plot (and almost equally, your characters), but that doesn’t give you liberty to use action nonsensically. Don’t be tempted to throw in a sword fight during a scene at the hospital, or something as equally unlikely, because chances are good that you won’t have a passable explanation for how that furthers your story (or even how it makes sense in the context of your story). D.R.A.G.O.N. writers are expert judges at what kind of action, be it subtle or over the top, will fit best for their scenes.
3. Choose the appropriate pace.
Establishing the right pace in your fiction depends a lot on the tools you use. Some are better suited for micropacing—line by line—and some are better suited for macropacing—pacing the story as a whole. Action scenes need to show what happens instead of just telling through summary. These scenes tend to have shorter sentences, fewer distractions, little description, and limited transitions. Don’t dwell on character thoughts, since people in crisis usually to focus only on survival. To create poignancy, D.R.A.G.O.N. writers will forget long, descriptive passages and instead choose a few details that serve as emotionally charged props to push the story along.
4. Read other action scenes in already established writers’ work.
As is the case in most writing, you can learn a lot from reading other expert writers’ work. Your favorite book probably has some very powerful action scenes to learn from, whether you focus on the heart-pounding danger of the protagonist’s fight to survive, or the tender scene that features a pair of lovers saying a mournful goodbye because of them is dying. Learn from the greats and adapt their techniques to your own fiction. D.R.A.G.O.N. writers know the best tutelage is from those we admire, especially amazing authors with so much to inspire us.
5. Avoid weak verbs and passive voice like the plague.
Remember that when you let weak verbs and passive voice run rampant in your creative work, you’re killing an adorable puppy and/or kitten. Don’t let linking words like be, am, is, are, was, were, being, and been slip into your sentences and weaken your verbs. Don’t be vague and say things like “Decisions were made.” No! Make your characters take ownership by writing sentences like “He made the decision to have dinner at nine p.m.” D.R.A.G.O.N. writers eat weak verbs and spit them out like sunflower seeds. They also shred passive voice with their pens and burn it until no one can hide in a vague phrase.
Congratulations! Now you’re well on your way to active writing that will keep readers interested long after the final page is turned. Don’t delay… your inner D.R.A.G.O.N. is ready for action! And be sure to watch for Part 4 of this series coming soon.
Have a thought or question on showing rather than telling? Have a discussion to spark about different kinds of action? Leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
Sage advice! I just wish more of the books I’ve read lately followed DRAGON. I keep whispering SHOW don’t tell in my own ear as I write. It’s surprising how often I catch myself in that basic “mistake.”
Thanks for the great comment! Show, don’t tell can be tough, but it’s so important. I’m glad you’re enjoying my D.R.A.G.O.N. writing series. The next part will be coming soon!
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