“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.


As Promised


Second half of critique group questions from last week’s post:


* Are character motivations powerful enough to create sufficient conflict?

* Is a potential for conflict established that is strong enough to move the story forward?

* Are the motives understandable?


* Is the dialogue between characters natural, purposeful, interesting, engaging?

* Does the dialogue contain emotion in a way that narrative cannot?

* Are the character’s voices distinct? Does each one have a different way of expressing themselves? Are their voices appropriate for the setting, genre, and time period?

* Is the dialogue believable?


* Is the narrative well-placed with the dialogue, not overwhelming the reader?

* Is background information presented at appropriate times and in the correct POV?

* Is POV clear and consistent?  Are changes smooth and logical?

*Should I use a different POV?


* Has the author dropped the reader into the action?

* Does the story flow smoothly, freely, and logically?

* Does every scene move the story forward?

10)  STORY:

* Are the story ad plot elements compatible with the genre?

* Can you picture each scene in your head?

* Is the purpose of each scene clear?

* Does each scene move the story forward?

* Does the story hold your interest?

* Does everything in the story build logically, plausibly, and believable toward the end/climax?

* Where do you feel the story is heading?

* Do inspirational elements grow organically out of character or plot?

Your Book, One Scene At A Time

Tokyo Aug 2010 - The Fantasyland Characters go to get ready for

Your book will consist of chapters.

Those chapters will break down into one or more scenes.

Each scene should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Something significant to the story should happen within each scene to move it forward. When the scene is finished, the reader should feel a sense of completion.

Within each scene, the characters should be actively doing something that makes the story feel as though it is happening in the here and now. (Yes, even if the story is set in the 1800’s, it should feel like it is happening now.)

Once the character reaches his objective, the scene ends.

Each scene should have three parts: Goal, Conflict, and Disaster.

Goal means simply what the POV character wants at the beginning of the scene.

Conflict is the series of obstacles the POV character faces on the way to reach his Goal.

A Disaster is a failure to let the POV character reach his Goal. If you end the scene with a victory, the reader is not compelled to turn the page. Make something happen so that the reader will want to see what happens next.

But a chapter is not just a series of scenes. It is built out of alternating scenes and sequels. 


Next week: The Sequel


There are times when my Critique Group writes “Milk It!” when commenting on some of my scenes. What they are saying is that they want MORE than I have written.






Why? Because that’s what makes a story exciting and satisfying. If you want your book to be a real page turner, then a writer has to deliver ON EVERY PAGE.


PLUMP IT UP. Use rich vocabulary. Lots of adjectives and verbs. Paint a visual picture.

Furnish the details. Let them get inside the characters’ heads by revealing their emotions via DIALOGUE, ACTIONS, AND THOUGHTS.

PUMP UP the plot. Make the content EXCITING. Make your reading audience want to keep turning the pages.

I know I have read books that were so exciting that they literally kept me up ALL NIGHT. I just couldn’t put them down.

That’s what writers want, isn’t it? To have our readers so completely drawn in by our characters and their journeys that they just can’t turn out the light and go to bed.

When I am done writing a chapter, I set it aside until the following day. Then, I read it again, with the eyes of a READER. I look to see if the first paragraph “hooks” me, if I want to keep reading to the end, and then if the closing sentence leaves me wanting more.

If so, I start writing the next chapter. If not, I look for where there is lagging action, conflict, emotions, thoughts, and/or descriptions. Then, I re-write, adding those elements.

I repeat the process until I am WOWED.

Then, it’s ready for the critique group. If they are WOWED, then I’m a happy camper. If they are WOWED, I know readers will be, too.

So if you have a nice little story which is lacking in PIZAZZ, why not make it a page turner?

Spice it up.

Change it up.

Shake it up.