1. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0

    Question about action and reaction scenes.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Willothewisp, Dec 3, 2012.

    Hey, so I am a beginner writer, like absolute beginner ;) I'm trying to figure out the theory and techniques involved in writing fiction.

    I've seen a few people divide scenes into action and reaction scenes, it makes sense and those guys seem to know what they're talking about, so naturally I try to apply this to my own writing. But I'm having trouble getting a story to fit into the structure. I think 50% of the text would fit the structure nicely. But the rest doesn't want to fit. I'm not sure whether I'm exaggerating the need to have the story comply to the action/reaction structure or not being creative enough to get the "bad" scenes to play ball.

    For example: I have the goal of introducing a character via dialog into the story and I have the main protagonist speaking to that character. The setting is that they happen to have adjacent seating in an airplane. I could force the structure unto the dialog by adding some ulterior motives to the characters. In this case the character could be trying to seduce the protagonist and she's trying to avoid his advances. While that certainly would spice up the scene I'm having great trouble imagining an appropriate "disaster". (Him giving his ponenumber disasterous enough? She gets upset unable to deal with the situation? Planecrash?) My goal really is only to stage the guy, he will become important later on.

    Would it not be more productive in this case to make the dialog interesting and enjoyable without having the protagonist trying to achieve a goal, or reeling from some setback? In this case maybe the protagonist leaves the guy hanging but leads him on enough to keep at it and keep her entertained. (Which could itself be interpreted as the goal/blockage/disaster pattern, only not imposed on the protagonist)

    And that is another thing... Rigid adherence to the action/reaction structure would mean every goal the protagonist in a scene has would end up in some kind of disaster. Making things worse is obviously a good way to arouse the readers emotions. But I suspect kicking bottom can be very good too.

    I guess I'm feeling a little rebellious, but I'm not naive enough to believe I know better than the authors who wrote about the action/reaction structure. :) And they've been very clear and firm on the matter.

    I hope I expressed myself clearly enough!

    What are your thoughts on this?
     
  2. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    35,935
    Likes Received:
    2,043
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I don't care much for he action-reaction scene model, or for that matter structured methods in general. I do believe in the dynamic of a plot, which consists of an actor, a goal or objective, a motivation, and an opposition.

    The motivation is a driving force that propels the actor toward the goal. The opposition is the driving force that propels the actor away from the goal.

    An opposition can be another plot.

    That simple dynamic can help you connect events, without being prescriptive or restrictive.

    See What is Plot Creation and Development?.
     
  3. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    My thoughts are that if there were some requirement that I had to write that way, I probably wouldn't write.
     
  4. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you for , I'm glad your opinions support my experiences. I'm going to use the action/reaction system "whenever it fits" like something to keep in mind.
     
  5. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,922
    Likes Received:
    5,458
    On one hand, the action/reaction model seems pretty mechanical, and I certainly wouldn't advise you to consider yourself bound by it.

    On the other hand, I do think that the characters should have _some_ motivation in that dialogue scene that you mention. It doesn't have to be anything big; it could be something simple like one character feeling anxious and wanting to distract himself from that anxiety through conversation. But there should be _something_ there, some little thread of motivation.
     
  6. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Well, when it comes to writing, rules are really only guidelines anyway.

    I'm not even sure I know how to separate everything into action-reaction. I just write. Ok is it natural to have a disaster at this point, for the character to be this or that way? And go with the flow. You can spice things up later if you see that an entire section is lacking some thrills or slow in pace - that's what rewrites are for (or specifically why I had to do some major rewriting... haha)
     
  7. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Okay, so I probably should think of "disaster" as "outcome". It's not always negative. Disaster is only a tool to trigger emotion.

    I like what you're saying ChickenFreak, (and you Mckk seem to think along the same lines, but less formal). You both suggest looking at the objects and people in a scene and being guided by their inner natural motivations rather than having the plot or getting some kind of algorithm to direct what happens.

    I'm really a beginner at writing so for me it's probably a good idea to start off by holding on to the structures and techniques a little firmer than those who have more experience should do. Just sitting down and writing didn't work for me... This time round I decided to learn the theory first. It turns out there's an enormous amount of theory. I need to learn to balance what to use when and how the various bits of theory fit together for my practice.
     
  8. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    It sounds like you may be making things more difficult for yourself than you need to. Writing is too full of nuances for you to ever master by reading up on theory. Just think of any kind of art - do you do woodcarving by reading the theory, or by carving wood and learning by some trial and error how wood works? Do you learn to paint by reading, or by picking up a paintbrush?

    Theory will only get you so far. It doesn't help to learn these theories because there're always exceptions, always occasions where actually breaking the rule is the best thing to do - and you don't learn when to break these rules by learning the rules. You learn when to break the rules by 2 things only: writing, and reading - reading fiction, that is!

    If you really wanna learn the theory before you write, then go and pick up some favourite books of yours and a few other classics and start reading. Enjoy it, then reread and analyse what made it so good, the structure, the wording etc. See it used. Then you'll learn.

    What do you mean "sitting and writing just didn't work for me"? I wonder if you're being too perfectionist about it. Even if you manage to learn all the theory of writing in the world, it still doesn't mean you can actually write. Since you're a complete beginner, or so you say, anything that you produce is bound to be "not as good" as say, someone else's work. Don't compare yourself, don't be a perfectionist, and realise that as a beginner you're just not gonna come out with a perfect piece of work.

    Heck even the pros edit and revise their MSes to death, right? ;)
     
  9. Chris H
    Offline

    Chris H New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2, 2012
    Messages:
    7
    Likes Received:
    0
    Why do you think there's an 'enormous amount of theory?' Because 'how to write' books are a good way of making money. The only theory that matters is that readers understand what you're writing (fans of James Joyce might disagree with that, but you get my drift) and are entertained. Create good characters, put them in a plot that evolves and concludes, then shove all the theory in the bin and write what you want to write. Following this theory and that theory will tie you up in knots and you'll end up writing formulaic stories-by-numbers. Ignore it.
     
  10. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's like you say Mckk.. "theory will only get you sofar" But I disagree that it doesn't help to learn these theories. I used to get stuck on writing because I didn't know what I was doing. Now I can actually formulate the problem but back then I literally did not even have words for it. I had 1 or 2 protagonists, a major disaster and a few vague ideas of what I wanted included in the plot. I wasn't thinking in a way that helped me go from idea to plot to chapters.

    It may sound trivial or ridiculous, thats how it seems looking back, but that is really what I got stuck on.

    I now have a full scene by scene plot, drafted some chapters. I dared to read them back only days later, but I actually enjoyed them. Even if they require buckets of spit and polish. ;) I'm closer to actually writing a book than I've ever been.

    I'm also seeing the books I'm reading through different eyes, instead of just being adsorbed in the story I'm noting what the author is doing, seeing the techniques he uses as he uses them.

    You're correct, don't get me wrong. I'm putting theory on a pedestal. There's a gamut of other ingredients needed for good writing. But to me for now this is a missing ingredient.
     
  11. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,681
    Likes Received:
    2,533
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    When my son, who has a learning disability, was going to school, educators and parents were locked in mortal combat over whether reading should by taught phonetically or through a "whole language" approach. Newspapers on both sides would hurl editorial grenades, PTAs would devolve into shouting matches and I once saw a local school board nearly come to blows over it. When we finally placed our son in a private school (at age 11, he had a mid-first grade reading level), I asked his reading teacher whether he believed in phonics or whole language, and he laughed. "Think of a tool belt," he said. "Phonics is a tool. Whole language is a tool. There are other tools. I carry as many as I can and I use whatever the student responds to." To me, that ended the war.

    It's much the same with writing. There are many approaches, and none of them are best for everyone. I wrote my first novels without an outline, with only a general idea of what I wanted to do and a few character sketches, and I wrote wherever the story took me. Then I decided to write a historical and realized that I COULDN'T write it that way, and so I did meticulous planning, with timelines and character arcs and a geneology chart. And in so doing, I realized just what the limitations were in my previous method. Before this thread, I never heard of the action-reaction scene model, so I can't comment on it. But you seem to have already discovered limitations in it. This is part of the process of learning the writer's craft. And my only advice would be that you not follow blindly a method you already see doesn't work for you, just because someone called it a "model" and published it.

    For me, the best way to learn about writing is to read good books. The ones you really like, read them again and see what it is about them that captures you so. Did the action pull you from page to page? Was the mc a person you felt you knew and wanted to know better? Did the writer, in telling the story, expose a fundamental truth and change the way you thought about things? Did it just flat out make you laugh? Or cry? Or shout, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore!" Then try and do the same things in your writing.

    You already care enough to want to learn to write better, and that's an important first step.

    Good luck.
     
  12. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks Ed, everyone :)
     
  13. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Well, if it helped you, why not. But I still don't see what's the point in adhering strictly to methods now that you've got the hang of it and more than that, have experienced its limitations. You know, at university we're encouraged to challenge - even argue against - our own tutors and other scholars. What I mean is, just because someone experienced wrote something doesn't make it right, or perfect, or infallible. You take whatever helps you in the theory and/or model, and then you try something else - maybe it works, maybe it doesn't, you'll find out soon enough - and then mix and match :D It's fun.

    In any case, I'm glad to hear that you're closer to writing a book than you've ever been! That's wonderful!
     
  14. captain kate
    Offline

    captain kate Active Member

    Joined:
    May 4, 2008
    Messages:
    876
    Likes Received:
    28
    Location:
    Cruising through space.
    And there's nothing wrong with action and then reaction scenes either when written correctly. In the hands of a skilled writer, they can be powerful because it allows the reader to experience the character's emotions after the fact. Someone who's been through a military ground battle will have reactive emotions once the furball's ended. That following scene helps the reader identify with a person they may not have understood during the battle.
     
  15. jazzabel
    Offline

    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2012
    Messages:
    4,273
    Likes Received:
    1,666
    I think scene and sequel model is far more practically useful.
     
  16. Thumpalumpacus
    Offline

    Thumpalumpacus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    566
    Likes Received:
    106
    Location:
    Texas
    All of life is action and reaction, at one level. I want to know why my characters do something. That means motivation is important. But in life, not everyone is single-minded, and motivations are sometimes buried, unconscious things.

    It's important for me, as a writer, to know why my character does something. Part of the art of good story-telling is unfolding to the reader the internal motivations of a character, too, in due time.
     
  17. Willothewisp
    Offline

    Willothewisp New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    Messages:
    9
    Likes Received:
    0
    I agree, I'm not arguing against your insight. However, when picking up a brand new skill, which is the case now. I try to "emulate an expert" at first, just to be able to do something. And then when that kind of works for me I experiment with the method. This just stops me from making every mistake at once. Instead now I make a few at the start while emulating and a few when experimenting with the methods. ;)

    It's still part of the thought process when dealing with scenes. But I no longer feel troubled when I deviate from it. I try to use my own judgment.

    How would you describe the practical difference between the two models?
     

Share This Page