Friday, January 10, 2014

From Boring to Riveting: (Otherwise Known as Fusing Action and Reaction Scenes Together)



Hi Everyone!

Thanks for having me back to Seekerville again. I had a blast when I was here last time with my awesome friend and critique partner Melissa Jagears, but I’m flying solo today. Kind of scary, though I’ll try to make do. (And thanks to Ruthy for hosting me!)

Okay, I want to get a little technical today and talk about Sequels. (You know, the annoying things that come after Scenes, in which your characters need to react to the disaster that just happened.) If I’ve lost any of you, head on over to Advanced Fiction Writing and check out this article.  Then come back here for the rest of my post. Otherwise you’ll be totally lost.

As a reminder for the rest of us, here’s a brief summary of the whole Scene-Sequel thing:

After your character either does something bad or has something bad happen to him/her, your character needs to react to the situation.

It’s not that hard of a concept and happens all the time in real life. Take, for example, this scene from my house over the summer:


Innocently trying to make dinner for my family, I reach for the carton of eggs in the refrigerator, only to find a big fat worm on top of the carton and three other big fat worms inside my egg carton. (This is the action or “Scene” part that ends in disaster.)

Now it’s time for the reaction or “Sequel.”



I squeal. I fling the worm that’s now slithering up my hand onto the floor, and I scream for my oldest son. “Nathanael!!! Why are there worms in my refrigerator???”

“Oh, I think Daddy put the left over fishing worms in there. Maybe the container spilled.”

“Get them out of my house. Now! And then go get Daddy!!!”

A few minutes later my husband tromps into the house . . . I’ll just let you guess how my reaction went from there.

Now, I just provided you with a rather interesting and comical reaction (or “Sequel” if you want to use that word). But in writing, reactions aren’t always so interesting. In fact, it often takes intentional work and effort to have those scenes be interesting—especially if you’re writing genre fiction that has certain predictable patterns.

Have you ever found yourself skimming part of a novel? I’m 90% sure that was a reaction scene that you skimmed. There’s no new action and a lot of introspection that goes along with this part of a story, hence the skimming. You’ve all read the scenes where the heroine stares longingly out the window dreaming of the hero. It’s nice, sweet, and rather boring since nothing more happens.

Your novel does need time for characters to react to what’s happening in the story, but the hard part comes in making those reaction interesting. This is why I often fuse my action scenes with my characters’ reactions. Instead of having a separate Action/Disaster—Reaction/Dilemma sequence, I usually put my Reaction/Dilemmas into the next action scene

Now I can almost see some of you crafting geniuses palming tomatoes and getting ready to throw them at the computer. Admittedly, I am no crafting genius. I struggle to read through a single craft book and only claim to have read two in their entirety. I’m a much bigger proponent of trial and error, asking myself (and my crit partner) what works for the story, and analyzing everything to death as I go along writing.

This is probably why, when I first attempted to try the whole Scene/Sequel thing, I found myself hacking apart my Sequels (reactions) as I reread my story. They were boring. They dragged. Nothing new was happening. So, I decided to be a little daring and fuse the two together  (Okay. Not really. I’m lying here. What happened was I wrote some scenes that I thought were interesting, and it turned out they had both actions and reactions together. After about a dozen of them, I finally noticed the pattern. Yes, I can be that dense sometimes. Don’t believe me? Just ask my hubby.)

Here’s an example from my newest novel, The Wyoming Heir. The heroine is in the headmistresses office, being questioned about how she was seen alone with the hero over the weekend. Little does the headmistress know about the kiss Luke and Elizabeth shared . . .

“But you are aware of Hayes’s policy regarding teachers courting?” Miss Bowen’s tight-laced voice echoed loudly against office’s sparse walls. “A chaperone is to be present at all times.”

“Yes. A chaperone.” Elizabeth licked her lips, as though she could still feel the firm pressure of Luke’s mouth against hers, the way the stubble on his jaw brushed her chin.

Which was why a chaperone was needed—to prevent situations like that. Her cheeks burned, and she glanced away from the headmistress. “M-Mr. Hayes was only being gentlemanly. Being from Wyoming, he’s not exactly aware of society’s rules about chaperones and propriety and such. But I assure you, he didn’t have any ill intentions.” Except for the kiss. That exquisite, wonderful kiss. One which would likely remain unparalleled for the rest of her life.

At least she’d have something to give her sweet memories when she was eighty.

“You do remember the Code of Conduct you signed when first agreeing to teach at Hayes?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The document had been fifteen pages of painstakingly small rules. True, she couldn’t recall every minute detail, but the chaperone one had probably been in there. “What’s to be done then? Do you need to inform the board?”

“I should. Our procedures ask that the board be notified in these types of situations.” Miss Bowen sighed and repositioned her glasses on her nose. “Though your mother’s illness did bring about some extenuating and unforeseen circumstances. I trust she has recovered?”

The moisture leeched from her throat. “Yes, quite.”

“Well, then, since nothing inappropriate happened between you and Mr. Hayes…”

Her heart pounded. Nothing inappropriate? She’d hardly call that kiss “nothing inappropriate,” but then Miss Bowen wasn’t asking for confirmation so much as assuming the best.

Did you notice all those thoughts about Elizabeth kissing Luke over the weekend? That was my character’s reaction--interspersed with being lectured by her boss.

This is how you make reactions interesting, by putting your character’s reaction into the next scene. At the completely wrong time. In the most annoying and aggravating way possible.

*Note: Sometimes you need your characters to be alone and think, especially when they’re about to decide something really, really big. I’m not dogmatically stating you have to strip every standalone reaction from your novel. But at the same time, every little response doesn’t need it’s full-out scene either.

Think about it. Is it more interesting to have your heroine realize she loves your hero when she’s standing alone in a bedroom, or when she’s having an argument with the oaf? Or being chased by bad guys with guns. Or staring into the face of the hero’s mother who’s bound and determined to have the hero marry a beautiful, rich socialite?

So the assignment for today: Go to your WIP and search for a place where you can combine your character’s reactions with the next scene from the story. Play around, have a little fun, and then come back here and tell me what you think in the comments. ;-)

I’ll be giving away one copy of The Wyoming Heir to a commenter (winner’s choice of paper or ebook).


And hey, a head's up to everyone!!!

All next week I'm doing a big cowboy picnic giveaway on my Inspirational Romance Ratings blog!!!

Here's the LINK!!!! (note that Ruthy made the link Big Enough To Notice!!!)

And here's a little bit about Naomi's latest book release:

The Wyoming Heir

Given a choice, Luke Hayes wouldn't ever leave his Wyoming ranch. Yet when his estranged grandfather dies, leaving him everything, he'll travel to Valley Falls, New York—but only to collect his sister and his inheritance. He won't be roped into saving a floundering girls' school, no matter what mathematics teacher Elizabeth Wells says. 

Elizabeth has defied social convention and her own family for the sake of her beloved Hayes Academy. Luke is pure rancher, from the tip of his Stetson to the scuff on his boots, yet he's also becoming her unlikely ally. Only he can help save her job and school…but how much will she lose when the time comes for him to leave?


To learn more about Naomi and her novels, visit her website at www.NaomiRawlings.com.


108 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Naomi...I'm already looking forward to your novel, and I'm reasonably sure that I won't be skimming over any of it as I try to see where you put your sequels ( and here I thought it meant a continuing story!) it's great to have you here. I see Helen's got the coffee ready to start, so will just add my cinnamon rolls and cheese muffins to the buffet

Connie Queen said...

Oh, Naomi, this is great point. I've never noticed it before so I may have to go skim my favorite authors and so if they hide the reaction in the next scene.

I have a couple of scenes I'm working on, but no matter what do, it drags. And since I can't shoot someone in every scene I'll go back and try this.

Terrific cover!!! Can't wait to read it.

Melissa Jagears said...

I'm bringing the picnic stuff, deviled eggs, cold ham, rolls, potato salad, and STRAWBERRIES for the Seekerville picnic in the comments.

And I'm never boring....

Cortney K said...

Hey Naomi.

So are you saying that when something bad happens then the hero or the heroine should react in an interesting way... Like for instance.....

My heroine gets thrown off a bucking horse and lands on the ground with a thud.

The hero rides into the yard just in time to see her being thrown from the horse and hits the ground.

The heroine doesn't move.

The hero is shocked for a moment then races his horse toward the heroine and jumps off the horse and runs the rest of the way to her as the horse gets closer.

I'm not sure if that's what ya mean, but..... And then that may not be very interesting... So

Jenny Blake said...

i have the books so dont enter me. I always wonder at salad when its freezing cold.

but add some beetroot or beets and pineapple and I have something to eat.

just an update the test I had to have today I got the all clear so one more thing of my mind so can concentrate on waiting for an appointment about the gall bladder.

Jackie said...

Hi Naomi,

I'm pretty sure we all want to read The Wyoming Heir now.

I will tackle our homework assignment later today or tomorrow. I can't wait to try your process.

Thanks for sharing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

♥♥♥♥♥ the worms!!!!

Naomi, goodest of mornings and welcome my friend!

Okay, this is such a lively, squiggly wiggly post that I can see the action/reaction sequence clearly.

That little bit of scientific reality is how I write. Every action spurs an opposite and equal reaction.... and sometimes more than 'equal' depending on the character type! Julie's Charity O'Connor would definitely go to the "max" on reaction, but there would be a firm reaction....

and then the ball's in the hero's court, so to speak. (Hey, it's basketball season!!!!)

Clean, concise, clear... Naomi, I'm going to have you give me lessons for blog-writing!!!! :)

I'm traveling today and my phone is not always cooperative, so I'm leaving youse in Seeker hands...

And chocolate! A little post-holiday stash I found.

Gotta love those hidden gems.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Oh wow, cinnamon rolls and cheese muffins from Marrianne. Deviled eggs, ham rolls, potato salad and STRAWBERRIES from Melissa, let the party begin. I'm not sure I even need to bring anything. But since we're going with the picnic theme, how about some sausage biscuits for breakfast?

Of course, around my house, we could also use a little bit of warm weather, you know the kind that melts the snow for a picnic instead of freezes the inside of your nose and makes the snow squeak like we've been having.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Marianne, that's too funny about you thinking a sequel was a different story. I tried to title my post appropriately . . . oh well. Glad you enjoyed it, though.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Connie, LOL! No, you certainly can't shoot someone in every scene (though sometimes I think Mary Connealy tries). But when I have trouble with boring scenes, I usually send a rough version to my crit partner, Melissa, and say "I know there's something really big wrong, but I don't know what it is. HELP!"

And Melissa then proceeds to point out the 1001 things I've done wrong, I fix them, and the story is better. (Melissa's pretty great like that).

If you want to troubleshoot those boring scenes on your own, you could always look at the GMC, paying special attention to the C part. Is there enough conflict? Oftentimes I think that's why reaction scenes tend to lag. The character's reaction needs to be really big and profound to for their to be enough conflict.

Hope that helps!

Naomi Rawlings said...

No, Melissa. You're never boring. But are you really sure you want to tell everybody our strawberry story? :-) They'll probably never think of strawberries the same.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Hey Cortney, did you read the link at the top of the post over at Advanced Fiction Writing? No, I'm not talking about a bunch of actions that happen in a sequence like that. I'm talking more about a reaction after some kind of upheaval. A person's friend gets killed in a car crash while going to pick up that person. There's the action, what happens after? How does the person respond, and how can you make it something a reader actually wants to read rather than skim?

After your horse scene, (lets say that's the first time the H/H meet) what happens when both your characters walk away? What do they think of each other? That's your reaction. And that reaction would be a whole lot more interesting if your heroine has it while her mom is trying to set her up on yet another blind date, as opposed to your heroine having it while she's driving away in her car. Make sense?

Naomi Rawlings said...

Looking forward to hearing back from you, Jackie!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Jenny, so happy about your test results! Now I really hope you get that gallbladder appt. And as for cold salads, I generally like them, a lot. As long as they don't have onions.

Melissa, are there onions in the potato salad?

Naomi Rawlings said...

Safe travels, Ruthy! And I'm glad you liked my worms. Somehow I knew you would. ;-) Now as for the blogpost writing lessons, you're asking the totally wrong person. I promise!

Mary Hicks said...

Naomi, thanks for the post, love the cover image, please put my name in the pot for the drawing...

I hadn't thought about what it was called, but I like it when a character's reaction is worked into the next scene. And you're right about not skimming over a scene like that... hmm, something new to chew on! :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Okay random question to throw to the Seekerville World. Am I the only person in the world who things "blogpost" should be one word and not two???? Blogpost. Blog post.

Definitely one word, right?

And on that note, I'm off to cook some real breakfast of eggs and corned beef hash, then start on some homeschooling. Be back after a while. :-)

Victoria said...

Great post, Naomi! Whenever I'm writing a sequel that is the thoughtful kind, I'm usually bored, which leads me to think, "What's the reader going to think about this?!" Actually, to tell the truth, I dread writing those kinds of scenes. I usually try to put them in with some action to make them more interesting. However, I haven't tried consciously putting them in with the next action scene as you suggested. Your example (loved it!) showed how much more interesting it can make the scene. I can't wait to try it!

In my WIP, I had a thought sequel scene in the second chapter and it was SO out of place. I ended up completely cutting it out and just stuck a few of the important thoughts in with other scenes. I like it way better now!

Audra Harders said...

So yesterday, my router clicked off just as I was about to send a comment on Ruthy's post.

Lost the comment and scared the dog with my reaction, LOL! (Worms had nothing on my rant!)

I love this post, Naomi! Yes, meld action/reaction and create real life situations a reader can relate to.

I do skim portions of novels. It's disappointing, especially when we all know how much time and effort the author put into writing it.

Will be very conscious of my reactions from now on. I promise I will NOT dally over passages and will instead have my heroines all be reliving kisses from the dashing hero while being chewed out by unsuspecting bubble-bursters!!

Julie Lessman said...

YIKES ... MRU's??? Gosh, I've been using those little suckers without knowing it, I guess!! Good to know ... ;)

Thanks for clarifying the process, Naomi -- I read the article and have to admit, YOU are a lot easier to read and I learned a whole lot more!!

Okay, truth time -- is that a true story from your life about the worms??? If so ... eeeeekkkkkk!!!!

The sausage biscuits are divine, darling, and thanks to MARIANNE, for the cinnamon rolls and cheese muffins -- the go nicely with MELISSA's picnic!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

Okay, Naomi and Melissa -- talk about worms!! You got me like a bass on a nightcrawler with the "strawberry" story, so fess up!!

AND RUTHY SAID: "Julie's Charity O'Connor would definitely go to the "max" on reaction, but there would be a firm reaction...."

Poor Charity, she gets beat up more than any character I've written, but it's only because she's sooooo full of MRUs (Among other things)!! I guess because we CDQ types tend to react to EVERYTHING ... whether it's in the same scene or not ... ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Crystal Ridgway said...

Ewwww, worms!
Great scene idea, though... You should work that into one of your books.
Awesome post, and SO true. We were all readers before we became writers and we all know what its like to skim over scenes. Its too bad though, because, at least for me, rambling on and on about the same thing is one of the potholes on my writing road. Did you ever notice that it is SUPER easy to write arguing scenes? (Now I know why Mary Connealy's characters don't get along.)
I would love to be entered for the giveaway. Can never get enough books.:-)

Melanie Dickerson said...

I admit, I never ever think about this when I'm writing a book. Yes, my characters react to whatever has just happened, but ... I don't think of it as "scene and sequel." Or maybe I do, and I just do it subconsciously. I don't really know. I'm not very good at analyzing this stuff! But I do sometimes let my characters go on too long with the introspection and internal dialogue. And they tend to get repetitious. That's one thing my editor usually has to rein in. I have less than a week to revise my latest book before I turn it in, so I better go check for that!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning NAOMI and welcome back to Seekerville. What a great and timely (I might add) post for me. I am just going through my final draft and I think I will now look for those possibly boring scenes. lol

Worms? When my hubby was taking biology classes, I came home from work and found a baby pig in my refrig. Talk about reaction.

Thanks for all the food. Yum. Really hungry now. Love picnics. Even those in the snow. We used to visit Mom at Tahoe and took picnics when we went cross country skiing. We had a blanket we called our Sunday blanket because it was holy (Lots of holes in it) We would put our drinks into the snow through the holes to keep them cold) I know-corny and TMI

Have fun today..

Donna said...

Naomi, scene/sequel always trips me up. I just can't seem to nail the concept down and after reading your post I think I know why. To me, the nature of a sequel requires a lot of deep pov.

But if I am understanding correctly, you are saying we can intertwine scene and sequel so deep pov (reaction) will be spread throughout every scene instead of lumped together in a sequel.

Huge light bulb moment! Thank you!

sondrakraak said...

Naomi, I'd not heard that terminology "sequel" in reference to reaction. Makes total sense. Reading your example was helpful, and it seems to me, meshing action and reaction is natural to do. I would refer to "sequel" as deep POV, internal thoughts, and it seems hard not to merge that with action. Don't they happen simultaneously in real life? I'm editing my first novel now, and I'll be sure to keep my eyes open for boring stretches of sequel. Thanks for the post.

Donna said...

Jenny, great news! I am praying you be blessed with good health very soon.

Mary Connealy said...

I love this Naomi.

And you had me at the worms.

Mary Connealy said...

Excellent advice.

And I do skim books and now I know people are probably skimming my books and now I feel bad and am grimly determined to fix that.

(Mary, brows lowered, teeth gritted, ferreting out reaction scenes, determined to up the amount of shooting, the only possible solution!)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Mary Hicks, glad I could give you something to think about. :-)

Jeanne T said...

Naomi, I love this. I only have a minute, but your thoughts make sense. Adding in a little tension in how my character reacts in the moment, and having another character present seem to help keep it more interesting too.

I love how you outlined this. Thank you!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Victoria, honestly, writing those kinds of reaction scenes where all the character does is think usually comes waaaaay to easy for me. So I write and write and write, and then when I go back and reread my story, yeah, those quick little scenes aren't so impressive. So I totally understand what you're talking about. I think that cutting that reaction earlier on was probably a wise move. There're times and places for the serious reactions, but not for every little thing that happens.

Naomi Rawlings said...

LOL! You make me smile, Audra. It's always fun to see what trouble you can get your H/H into for kissing each other, isn't it? ;-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Yes Julie and Sandra. Worms. That story is definitely real, and unfortunately I could tell you worse.

Like about how my husband freezes the mice he catches so that he can use for coyote bait once trapping season starts.

And about how my six year old came running home after tracking a deer this fall, holding the deer's heart in his hand as he barged into the house and asked if we could eat it for lunch.

Oh the stories I have from living in the wilderness with one big backwoodsman and two little ones. In fact, I think I should steal Mary's idea about the Cowboy and start calling my man the Backwoodsman.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Julie, I'm easier to read than Randy Ingermanson because I don't have a Ph.D. And I like Charity . . . not as much as Faith, but I still like her. :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Crystal, actually, I don't think it's easy for EVERYBODY to write arguing scenes. It's easy for me, but I know other authors who struggle with them. It just depends on your natural strengths and weaknesses as an author. Conflict comes easy for me. Having character motivations match all the conflict I want to pour into my stories? Well, you'll notice I DIDN'T write a post on character motivations, now did I? ;-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Melanie, I'm totally with you. I usually don't stop to analyze and think through a bunch of stuff while I'm writing. However, I usually end up getting stuck at some point in my story, which then forces me to analyze everything. (In other words, I scream MELISSA! HELP ME! I'M MESSING EVERYTHING UP!)

But one thing I don't like is boring places. When I reread my novels, I ask myself over and over again, "Is this scene boring or will people want to read it?" Not very scientific, I know, but it seems to work for me.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Yes, Mary. More shooting will fix everything wrong with a novel, I'm sure of it.

Okay actually, you want to know a secret? I've never once killed a character. Not even a small one, and not ever. Melissa, on the other hand . . . well, I'll just let you read her next book rather than spoil anything.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Hope it helps, Jeanne. :-)

Debby Giusti said...

Naomi,
Thanks for an insightful post that has me nodding my head...and worried about how boring some of my reaction scenes have been.

Raising hand and promising to do better in the future.

Plus, I get what you're saying, which is half the battle, right?

Excellent! Clearly defined! Examples drove home the points you were making!

I give this blog an A+.

Now about that kiss...oh my gosh! At least a 10 out of 10 in hooking my interest. Plus, I love heroes named Luke. Especially heroes who know how to kiss. :)

Naomi Rawlings said...

The Strawberry Story

Okay, here it goes: Once upon a time there was this innocent aspiring writer who sent her crit partner a scene near the end of the book where the hero proposed to the heroine. It was a lovely scene filled with sunny skies, grassy fields, and even a picnic with some strawberries that the heroine packed for the hero. The characters spoke what was on their hearts and kissed and feed each other strawberries.

And do you know what that innocent little author's big bad crit partner said? Th crit partner said the scene made her want to gag. On strawberries.

Melissa and I have been laughing about strawberries and gagging on them ever since. :-)

And in Melissa's defense, she was right about my perfect sunny scene. It was too easy and didn't have any conflict. So I rewrote it in a much more compelling way.

AND I KEPT THE STRAWBERRIES IN THERE JUST TO SPITE HER! ;-)

Sherida Stewart said...

Excellent, excellent, and did I say EXCELLENT!? I "get" it!
New sign above my computer:

Sequel/Reaction: Make something NEW happen with ACTION! via Naomi Rawlings

Thank you! I'm impressed with your writing! I'll be reading more!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Naomi,
You've NEVER killed a character?!!! Okay, let me see if I can count up how many I've killed.
1st ms: 3
2nd ms: 0
3rd ms: 3
4th ms: 1
5th ms: 1
6th ms: 3
7th ms: 4
8th ms: 1 (so far)
9th ms: 0 (so far)
So thats a total of 16, I believe. I may have missed a few here or there. All those deaths tend to scramble together in my mind.
And yes, I am working on two at one time. That way, when I get stuck on one, I can just ditch it to work on the other. Its a win-win situation.

CatMom said...

Great post, Naomi - - and one I can really use right now!
But I'm sorry...those worms have me cringing....YUK---worms rank up there with snakes and bugs for me (except ladybugs--those are cute).
Congrats on this book---love the cover! No need to enter me in the drawing, as I plan on buying the book. :)
Blessings from rainy Georgia,
Patti Jo

Melanie Dickerson said...

Always leave out the boring parts.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Glad you found the post useful, Sherida. :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

LOL Crystal! You and Mary Connealy would so get along!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I don't do this. I do straight action -reaction. or as Swain says motivation stimulus->reaction (shows feeling or reaction or speech or all three)


But I do introspection in the sequel scene to go in depth as sort of a pause in the action.

Interesting way to consider doing things. Thank you.

Tina Radcliffe said...

A Seekerville welcome to Sondra Kraak. Have a muffin!

Stephanie Queen Ludwig said...

Hello Naomi! Thanks for the insightful post. I was just thinking I did something similar in my last writing session. I'm working on a murder mystery, and the scene ended with the "murderer" leaving a menacing threat. The MC sees the threat, but you don't see her reaction as the police come, she has to comfort the intended victim, etc. The next scene is where you see her reaction, when she's alone with her boyfriend.

Also, your scene reminded me a lot of Meg Cabot. Her characters are constantly in their heads, reacting to scenes several pages earlier as more action is going on. I love her writing, so this is a high compliment!

Please don't enter me in the drawing, as I was forunate to have won your and Melissa's books in the New Year's Eve party. Looking forward to reading them both, especially after that teaser!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Testig. Rough road. Mel, i don't think about it as I do it but I notice where I've missed the follow through when I read through. And I skim most of Connealy's books. Doesn't everyone???

Missy Tippens said...

What a cute scene…er, scene/sequel, Naomi! :)

Thanks for the great post! I think I usually do this, inserting the reaction into the next scene. Although I sometimes put it at the end of the action while the character is making a decision about how to handle the disaster.

Now that I think about it, I guess I usually have one at the end (of the current pov character's scene) and then put the other's character's reaction in the beginning of the next scene where I've changed Pov.

Courtney Phillips said...

Oh. My. Goodness.
Scene and sequel makes sense to me now! I have been doing what you do, and I didn't realize it. All this time I haven't understood sequel--now I get it.
Wonderful :)
Please enter me for the book. From your example, it sounds super fun, and I like the heroine already.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I do this in some books more than others. Makes for quick repartee. And snarky thoughts. Interspersing the internal monologue adds speed and humor or tension.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

No snow. Off topic. In mts. Of PA and no snow. Bare mountains. So odd in January.

Naomi no one DIES? Oh my stars, girlfriend. ;)

Myra Johnson said...

Interesting take on scene/sequel, Naomi! Thanks for sharing your insights.

I'm a big proponent of Dwight Swain's Techniques of the Selling Writer, but the truth is I don't spend a lot of conscious effort constructing scenes and sequels. Seat-of-the-pantser that I am, I just listen to my characters and they usually tell me what kind of scene they need--action or introspection.

But I can certainly see your point about including action where you can so those reaction scenes don't drag.

Julie Lessman said...

LOL ... LOVE the strawberry story, Naomi, and I'm glad you left them in!! ;)

And, YES, you ARE way easier to read, sweetie-pie!!

But, YIKES ... dead mice in the freezer? Kids with dear hearts??? You are a VERY brave woman, my friend!!

And thanks for liking Charity. Somebody has to ... :)

Hugs,
Julie

Cara Lynn James said...

There are a lot of ways to use sequels. I think the important thing is to get a reaction from the character in the previous scene. It was a breakthrough for me to learn about scene and sequel. It makes writing so much easier.

Janet Dean said...

Naomi, great to have you back post side in Seekerville! Excellent suggestions for ramping up our stories by combining reactions in the action of the next scene.

Your book sounds wonderful! I can hear the different character voices from the excerpt. Loved it!

I generally try to give the POV character's reactions during that scene and then the non-POV character's reactions to the prior action in the next scene when in her/his POV. Is that what you try to do, too?

I would've freaked at the worms, but dead mice might put me on the floor. LOL

Janet

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks for the complement on the blog post, Debbie! And I totally agree with you. Luke's always a good name for a strong, handsome cowboy, right? Especially one who knows how to kiss. ;-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Glad you enjoyed the post, CatMom and Blessings right back at you from snowy northern Michigan.

Guess what? It warmed up enough to go snowmobiling today. :-D

Naomi Rawlings said...

You know, Tina, I don't think any two writers write their books the same way. If you have something that works, then by all means, KEEP DOING IT!

Hi Sondra!

Crystal Ridgway said...

Snow?
Oooh, Naomi, you lucky duck! We're stuck with drippy, chilly, too-wet, mud inducing rain. Ick.
Oh, and about me getting along well with Mary Connealy, I take that as a HUGE compliment. Thank you!
Stay warm in all that lovely snow!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Hi Stephanie, I've never read anything by Meg Cabot, but she sounds interesting to try. :-)

And yes, it sounds like you have the idea with how you're having your heroine react to the murder. I mean, I'd say she needs some reaction in her IM even while comforting the victim, something to give me a clue about her emotional state. (Scared along with the victim? Angry? Professional?) But otherwise you're probably on the right track. :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

You know, Missy, I think it totally depends on the situation. I've got some scenes in The Wyoming Heir where the characters just think. But I try to save those for the really big moments. The "Oh My Stars, I've been doing everything wrong for the entire novel" kind of moment. For the smaller things, especially emotional reactions to the progression of the romance, I try to litter that throughout scenes with lots of action and where stuff is already happening.

Tina Radcliffe said...

I love that Myra makes no apologies for being a pantser.

GO, MYRA!!!!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Hi Courtney, don't you love those light bulb moments as a writer? That instant when something you've been struggling with suddenly clicks? Glad my post could help a little. :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Yes, Ruthy! I love those snarky thoughts and the quick repartee. In fact, if there's one word I wish I could use in my historical novels, it's SNARKY. My characters totally love being snarky. Every single one I've ever written.

I'm sure that has nothing to do with the author projecting her own personality into the characters. Nothing at all . . .

And be nice to Mary. Her novels are too funny to skim. You'll miss some of the snark, and we can't have that. :-)

Heidi said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! It's so interesting to learn about the ins and outs of the writing process and some of the methods writers use to improve their drafts. Looking forward to reading your new book- thanks for the giveaway!

Naomi Rawlings said...

As for the no snow, Ruthy, you should come visit me instead of going to PA. Lots of fun to do in the snow. We've even got a couple of 15 year old snowmobiles we'll let you ride.

Though I must admit, if I was going somewhere there was supposed to be snow, and the ground was bare, I would be most disappointed. :-(

Myra Johnson said...

{snicker}

Naomi Rawlings said...

I'm with you, Myra, in that I usually don't stop and analyze a lot of this until I get myself stuck. And even then, my discovery about fusing the action and reactions was more by accident. I did what felt right so the scenes moved quickly and hopefully didn't give the reader a chance to close my book. So then when I stopped and looked at what actually worked, it was this fusion of reactions sprinkled throughout a new scene. I stumbled upon it quite by accident, I promise.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Well Julie, Melissa would say that your stories have lots of strawberry gagging scenes in them.

And sometimes Melissa still gets told that she needs to make me gag on strawberries. In fact, when I got my copy of A Bride for Keeps, Melissa had drawn a little strawberry inside by all the sappy stuff she wrote. She's so sweet, that Melissa J!

And interestingly enough, I think her husband is just about as bad as mine, even with the deer hearts and mice and everything.

Julie, don't you have a son? And I know you're married. Let me guess, your husband probably doesn't fur trap as a hobby!

Naomi Rawlings said...

You're right, Cara. There certainly are a lot of ways to use Sequels. I've always done them a bit naturally, even before I knew what they were. Of course, I still had to learn the fundamentals at some point. Isn't it interesting how differently we all write? :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Yes Janet! That usually is what I do, give the POV character's reaction in the actual scene and then the other character's reaction when I switch POVs. But I almost never PAUSE the story so that the heroine can have her reaction scene all by itself. I blend it all in.

And after a first kiss, both characters NEED that reaction worked in somehow, right Julie Lessman???

Naomi Rawlings said...

Crystal, we get so much snow where I live, that we actually shovel off roofs. No joke. My husband just went out this afternoon to do so for an elderly gentleman. :-) You should move to northern Michigan. We get 200 inches a year.

And it's so nice to hear from a fellow snow lover. (I've gotten the impression on more than one occasion that most of Seekerville does not enjoy the fluffy white stuff. I swear they don't know what they're missing.)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks for stopping by, Heidi!

Naomi Rawlings said...

So Myra, with you being such a self-proclaiming pantser, do you ever give our agent a heart attack when you try writing synopses? I know I do. Every single time.

Poor woman. :-(

Crystal Ridgway said...

Naomi,
Wow... Shoveling snow off the roof. *dreamy sigh*
The only white we've gotten down here in Texas this winter was an ice storm that froze everything for eight days. Pretty extreme, but not near so much fun as snow.
Plus everyone in my house was down with the flu during that time.
Boy, how can ANYONE not love snow? The only thing in nature that I love more is the florida keys.

Missy Tippens said...

Naomi, you're right. There are so many ways to do this. The main thing is to just make sure it's there somewhere. I'm bad about having something stuck in my head but not putting it on paper! :)

Lyndee H said...

HI Naomi. Thanks for the great examples. You made that easy to understand. Now to do it! Looking forward to your latest. The cover hooked me when I first saw it on FB listed by Harlequin. Yay!

Connie Queen said...

I'm taking your advice, Naomi.

The scene I've been struggling with has my heroine meeting the "other" woman that the hero had been interested in. When we switched to the hero's pov, I had him standing there thinking how glad he was it didn't work out. BORING. But now, I'll delay his thoughts (rx) into next action.

Thanks again for the advice.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

I have snow at home. Lots. Was just surprised there was none in the mountains.

I have learned to do synopses for our agent. It makes her smile. And the she's proud of me.

I am a needy child. ;)

So I guess even us pantsers have to plan a little bit. Just a smidge.

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Connie, you could have his thoughts kind of fearfully and humorously disjointed in that scene with the women talking and his thoughts/bets/assumptions going on in his head. Think Castle.

Chill N said...

For me, action-reaction (scene-sequel) is a great way to pace the story -- and it's a handy way to give more insight about the character (based on the reaction and quality or quantity of introspection or lesson learned).

Interesting post, Naomi. Whatever works for the writer and the story and the reader of that story is what works :-)

Nancy C

Connie Queen said...

Ruth, that would be funny. I may have to do that. Thanks.

Chill N said...

P.S. Don't enter me in the drawing. The Wyoming Heir is on pre-order.

Nancy C

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Naomi,

You don't know how glad I was to read your take on scene/sequel or action/reaction!!!

I just never could understand how you needed a whole scene to 'mull over' the reaction to the previous scene. How boring! I love your idea of combining the reaction with the next scene of action. Have to go back and check how I do that now. I just write what feels natural to me.

Loved your scene and can't wait to read your story!

Cheers,
Sue
sbmason at sympatico dot ca

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks Lyndee H.

Connie Queen, glad my post was helpful. :-)

Melissa Jagears said...

No wonder I had a little ringing in my ear, Naomi's talking about me. Must go soothe baby who just got shots, but wanted to say that the extra eyes are a great thing to have! Especially if those eyes are connected to someone who likes writing dissection and craft stuff. Helps to say "you are missing Interior monologue" rather than "I'm not connecting for some reason" at least I think it helps give people direction better.

And I err to having no strawberries whatsoever, so Naomi will be like "hey, he just proposed, they'd at least touch each other don't you think????!!!" okay, I'm not that bad but I do get a lot of "emotion here, PLEASE!" :)

Naomi Rawlings said...

And Ruthy, I'm still waiting for the day when my synopses make our agent smile. I'll probably be old and gray before that happens, unfortunately. :-(

Naomi Rawlings said...

So Chill N and Tina are my die hard action-reaction people. Interesting . . . but as I said, if what you're doing works, DON'T change. If this post made some bells go off in your head, then maybe you should play around a bit.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Hey Sue, something tells me if you go back and examine your stories, you just might find yourself naturally doing what I'm talking about. I did it naturally before I every realized the technical part of what I was doing.

Kav said...

Okay...I just can't get passed the worms. I don't know how many times I've landed on this blog only to run screaming when that particularly nasty visual scrolls up. Ugh! Can you tell I haven't raised boys? Or fishermen? Or hand fed baby birds?

SHUDDER!

Mary Connealy said...

Naomi thank you for scolding Ruthy. It's worth a try!

Mary Connealy said...

Naomi, definitely name your husband. Backwoodsman. That has a nice ring to it. No more whining about the cold though if you do. Backwoodsman LIKE the cold And let's face it girl, you've been!

Naomi Rawlings said...

Me? Whining about the cold? Never! And yes, my Backwoodsman likes the cold. He's gone ice fishing before on Lake Superior when it was in the -20s. That's just how he is. Big bad mountain man, minus the mountains. (Maybe we should move to Montana or Alaska.)

Anyway, we just got back from snowmobiling. That's always fun. :-)

Naomi Rawlings said...

Kav, funny about the worms! There was a time where I would have screamed . . . oh wait, I did scream. Anyway, I've mellowed some living with my Backwoodsman and my two little men that big Backwoodsman is trying to convert at a young age. My three year old asked for an ice shanty for Christmas. Yes, really. All on his own.

I'm doomed.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Well yes. I do have to claim responsibility for about half the kisses in Melissa's novels. I'm always begging her to add them sooner. Sometimes she listens, but other times she can be kind of stubborn. So I naturally tell her that I need to gag on some strawberries. We've had quite the strawberry conversations over the past few years. :-)

Hope baby is feeling better, Melissa. Shots are no fun!

Jenny Blake said...

Kav I struggle looking at the worms only I thought they were snakes or some other sinister thing.
as a child I use to love playing with worms in the garden having them crawl over my hands it was so much fun.
Not sure when it all changed.

In a few days Thursday I will be complaining about heat going for around 115+

found out I am not the only one with my condition who has eye issues and focusing on books. I am so glad for kindle books right now as I can read them on the computer ok but a book feels like it is spinning. I got Naomi's as a kindle book.

Pam Hillman said...

I've been away from my computer all day, but I freaked out when I saw the .... PICTURE!

Ewww! lol

Once I got past the wo...wor... squiggly things, what a great piece on how to weave in reaction and keep the pace lively.

Good job, Naomi!

Julie Hilton Steele said...

I am late to the game but this post gave me a real AHA moment!

Thanks, Naomi. And I hope you have gotten over the worm incident. Shudder.

Peace, Julie

Chill N said...

NAOMI ... I know it's late and hope you see this -- I think you'll laugh with me. Tonight as I was editing, I paid closer attention to action/reaction (scene/sequel). Sometimes I do the action/reaction ... and other times I blend the two the way you described.

I guess it pays to read my own writing LOL

Nancy C

Jessica said...

Fantastic! Definitely something I'm going to use in my novel. And Naomi, your novel was hooking me in just from that short paragraph. Looks good!

Mary Preston said...

No skimming here that's for sure!!!

Sara Ella said...

Naomi, this exactly what I was struggling with this week. My character's reactions were putting me to sleep! Thanks for this "aha" advice. Can't wait to dig into my WIP and integrate this method.

Naomi Rawlings said...

Thanks to everyone who stopped by! I'm glad I could help some of you out, and as for the worms, well, sorry about the mini heart attacks I may have caused. I suppose it's just a side effect of living in the woods with one big man and two little ones.

Thanks so much for having me, Seekerville!

Natalie Monk said...

Naomi! This is great! You've just described what I didn't know I was doing but hoped it would turn out. LOL! I'd heard that quote about "leave out the boring parts." So I figured instead of all the stop-and-think moments, I'd just let their reminiscing come during the next scene or crisis. This helps me so much to know I'm not the only one and that it's a legit way to write! lol