BALANCING ACTION WITH REFLECTION IN A NOVEL
Posted on January 11, 2015
When putting together a story, two aspects sometimes butt heads. Do I steamroll through my story and bounce from action to action or do I intersperse moments of reflection?
I'm an overthinker. I tend to work through a lot of what is going to happen next with my own interactions. It sometimes results in paralysis, where I'll look back at a situation and realize if I had just plowed through it and not gotten too contemplative, I would've been out the other side and moving on.
There are times where reflection is good, where rolling around an idea, analyzing all the outcomes and histories associated with an action, works just fine. Guess that takes me out of the running for Wild West gunslinger.
A lot of media properties out there in pop culture build their brand around non-stop action, never letting their audience take a breath. I like that fine, but a steady diet of rollercoaster narratives shouldn't be so all-pervading.
I find I can't write like that. Does Monsters in Boxers have kids stumbling through action, sometimes not thinking and just doing? Yes, but it isn't all that. Kids are very much capable of careening blindly from one incident to the next, but they're also capable of incredible reflection. Reflection in a narrative is a powerful tool. It tightens the connection to the reader, letting them participate at a different level because the characters often voice or think about the very things they've been wondering about in the story.
It also, helps the characters develop a more well-rounded personality and one that displays nuance. I just wrote a scene that shows a character, who many would think is all about being brash and headstrong, carefully considering others. I stopped as I wrote the scene and reflected on the other instances of Troy showing understanding and empathy. If I had just had him exhibit one primary personality, the character and the story would be deprived of the richness that is making writing this series so engaging.
I know I've been writing a lot lately about my writing, but I have to see that as a good thing. I'm excited. I have something to say, and it's showing by how I don't want to barrel from chapter to chapter; I want to stop and reflect in these posts about what's pulling me in. I'm hoping when the final product is published you'll be sucked in as much as I have.