Thursday, September 15, 2011


Inaction by definition is the absence of action, idleness. When it's in a book it's killer. I'm just over half-way through book 2 in a series and I've put it down. I'll pick it up again and eventually finish it because I hate to give up entirely on a novel but the chances I'll read book 3 in this trilogy has greatly diminished.

I'm surprised, shocked even, that after I've developed such strong emotions to the characters and their story in book 1 that I now feel such indifference. The culprit is inaction. I'm 160 pages in and generally not much has happened. Sure we've been introduced to a new character but overall it feels like the narrative is running in circles, buying time. And by inaction it's not limited to the lack of any fighting in book 2 but even true growth of the characters thus far from page 1 to 160. The character dynamic has shifted since book 1 and with it taken away a lot of tension; the writer needed to find better and more creative ways to add this back in. Right now, all I can assume (given the nature of the novel) is that everything will come unraveling or come together at the end--that we're in a waiting game for something big, though of what I can't be sure.

This is a classic writing mistake in my opinion. Detail and background is important but they can't weigh down the prose or be ALL of the prose. If detail and background are threads then writers are knitters, weaving these together with tension and action and character development to move us towards the final product.

Action has to be present in some manner throughout, moving the pacing along and getting us hungry for more. I was having a conversation about this with a friend and used Twilight as an example. Why? Because virtually every girl (and woman) I know has read it and in some cases guys too. Yes, the chase at the end and eventual show-down between Edward and James along with Bella's near death is the climax of the story.

There is, however, still strong tension and action throughout. Bella's uncertainty of who and what Edward is; Edward saving her from the gang of men in the alley; the fearfulness that is a constant undercurrent, present at all times, that he could kill her. These all play into action, character development, and tension.

As writers we need to try to strike that delicate balance between providing detail and setting up our story. I think of putting on a play. Don't devote all of your time as stage crew setting up the props; spend it engaging the characters in meaningful ways.

What books have you read where the action has sustained throughout the novel?

1 comment:

  1. I will stay with books folks are familiar with and say the Harry Potter Series (especially books 4-7). Such a shame (read: mistake) they split the last book into two movies!?