“Help! Someone help!” Luanne screamed as the masked man swiped at her once again with the gleaming blade of his knife.
Elizabeth read the supermarket ads.
Sweat beaded on Paula’s forehead as panted through another contraction.
Sandy settled down with a new paperback.
Lightening zigzagged through the darkened sky as rain pelted the frightened boy.
“Drop your reader in the midst of the action” is one of the very first writing “rules” I heard. (Running a close second to “Show, don’t tell.”)
That’s good advice.
Face it, a book is a lot more exciting when, like a blockbuster movie, there’s a lot of action.
The examples above, show varying degrees of action. Writers need to strive for this a good percentage of the time.
Conflict is a great way to generate action. Man vs. man; Man vs. animal; animal vs. animal; Man vs. the universe; Man vs. the occult and so on.
But, even action needs to be offset now and then, with periods of more introspection, internal dialogue, description, and conversation (unless it’s a heated argument—then, that’s action!)
Everyone needs to experience “down time” every once in awhile. That’s true of readers, too. So be sure to include some softer scenes in your writing as well.
I don’t know that there is a formula or a magic percentage that anyone has come up with, but for myself, I try to start each chapter with action and end them with a cliffhanger.
What better way to keep the reader turning pages?
Then, I vary the scenes within each chapter with description, conversation, and action which keeps the story rolling along.
Once I finish writing a book, I give it a rest for a few weeks and go back to reread it before the final edit. I look for quite a number of things on my checklist, but first of all, I am sensing whether or not the story has varying amounts of action that make it an exciting and satisfying experience for the reader.