Thursday, December 12, 2013

Emotion vs. Action

I finished the first draft of my National Novel Writing Month manuscript three days ago. I know a lot of people say to put it away and give yourself a little distance from the story before starting the editing process. This is what I've done in the past and it doesn't work for me. I haven't gone back to anything I've applied this method to. It's only been three days but I'm ready to go over this manuscript and work on the second draft. Here's what has me at an uncertain stall, though: Emotion vs. Action.

I like to set the scene. I want anyone reading my book to feel immersed in the characters, the location and the emotions. As a reader, I like that immersion but I also like to get right into the story and be sucked into that world.

Recently, I received feedback from a submission that said my writing was solid but needed more action. I can't tell you how grateful I was (and am) for some constructive criticism. However, I am now questioning the balance between emotion and action in a story. I was told to "get right to it" and "pack a punch" from the beginning. I understand that I write in a slightly meandering fashion. I also understand that I need to pull the reader in immediately. I know how to write a first sentence, a first page that packs that punch. The thing I'm struggling with is keeping the emotional aspects I enjoy writing and reading while still having that punch. What is the balance? I know it's going to be different in each story and even different by genre but every story has to have both. Without emotion you have flat characters. Without some kind of action you aren't moving your story forward. I get this, I agree with this wholeheartedly; but how do you distinguish the balance?

Do any of you struggle with this? If so, have you figured out a way to deal with it?


  1. I definitely know what it's like to write for character development (and backstory) instead of keeping the action rolling over. I think that sometimes a quicker-paced story can heighten the emotion of the scene - the tension, that "hooked" feeling where you have to keep reading, etc. A meandering narrative probably won't do this as well. But I remember seeing it said that you shouldn't have constant fast-paced action, either. The reader needs a breather now and then!

    I don't know if I even answered your question. ha. Guess I was wending around too much. ;)

  2. Thanks Trisha, I take what you're saying to mean a good combination of both emotion and action. I agree with you if that's what you are indeed saying. :) I think perhaps I'm a little too stuck in my head about it after the feedback I received. Perhaps, as long as the first pages have enough to pull the reader right in the rest falls into place?