Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Shouldn't You Have Learned This by Now?


I went out to lunch today. Taco Bell. Not much there for the the health and weight conscious. I was lazy and ordered a meal combo, complete with a soda drink. Now all afternoon I've been berating myself: "Don't you know by now that diet pop kills brain cells? You need every cell up there to do this job."

I so want to be healthy and take off extra pounds, but I keep falling back on lazy habits of eating what is fast and what seems to be -- at the time -- most tasty.

While reading through some things this week, I've noticed some old habits that authors seems to fall back into even after having had the lessons. One of those is with motivation/reaction.

What's wrong with this? --

Jill’s hearted jumped and the pitchfork fell from her grasp. A gun fired outside the barn, and she ran to the door to see riders entering the yard.

In the sample, we are getting reaction before we see what motivated this response. The reader needs to watch things evolve from external action to internal response in order to follow your story smoothly.

Sometimes this problem is more subtly presented in a story, but a problem all the same.
A voice rang out as she passed by her neighbor’s house. “Still working at the five-and-dime?” Mrs. Matthews asked, reaching down to fetch the morning paper.
Loretta looked over at her good friend and smiled.
Loretta would have already "looked" if her POV has acknowledged the speaker and her action.

Randy Ingermanson has a good lesson that includes this issue offered free on his site called "Writing the Perfect Scene."

Check it out, then check your latest work for lazy little gremlins like this that keep trying to sneak into your story.

Have you seen one that made it to publication? If you have, post an example of what not to do.

5 comments:

Mary Connealy said...

Ah, MRUs. Motivation Reaction Units. They're tricky, especially when, honestly, everything kind of happens at once. I have done battle with scenes like this many times, get it all in order, get all the actions and reactions in there, but make it fast too.

Mary Connealy said...

p.s. the tacos sound great after my APPLE for lunch. :)

Pam Hillman said...

Diet soda kills brain cells? NOW you tell me.

I sat in on Randy's online course on MRUs a few years ago. It was great. He showed us how to identify the motivation sentences/section, then the reaction section. All the while I nodded my head in agreement at my computer monitor....

Then I tried to do the same thing with my own work and started banging my head AGAINST the monitor! lol

Seriously, I understand it in theory, but sometimes it is hard to pick it out in my own work.

Thanks for the reminder to watch our MRUs!

Anita mae said...

I face this dilemma at least once each writing day. I'll write the scene and the dialogue, sit back and look at it, reverse it, and look at it again.
Thank you for bringing Randy's lesson to my attention. I truly appreciate it.

Tina M. Russo said...

Excellent post.

I keep the MRU info on a card over my computer.