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latieplolo
02-23-2017, 09:59 PM
For conversation's sake, I'm interested in how other writers approach the balance between action and reflection in fiction.

It seems like young writers are always told to focus on action- I've even heard the advice that it's poor writing to ever use the past tense of to be because it's not active enough. As we grow older and gain experience, however, writers learn to balance action with reflection, introspection, or general philosophizing within the story. Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano wrote novellas almost entirely in thoughts and feelings with barely a trace of plot.

Personally, I find myself writing almost entirely "in the moment" on the first draft and only add in these more subtle layers in later versions. I always feel rushed to jot down the scene as rapidly as possible when I first think of it or I'm afraid that I'll lose the idea.

How do you handle this? Is it something you do consciously, or does finding this balance come to you intuitively? Do you find yourself leaning one way or the other?

Old Hack
02-24-2017, 11:50 AM
I find that if I can manage to turn off my inner editor I write balanced prose which is full of nuance and detail, action and reflection. Although I always do revise my work, and quite heavily too, I don't have to worry about going back to it and adding another layer of anything if I get it right first time. So that's what I aim to do.

Aiming to do it and actually doing it are two different things, though. It's not always possible for me to get properly into the zone when I write. It can take a while, so the first few pages I write each day often get discarded. I hit my rhythm eventually and off I go. Sometimes it doesn't happen at all and when that's the case, my fiction is too action-orientated and fast-paced, without the depth that I want to get. Then I do have to write more deeply into the scene and this is when writing is really hard for me. Because I'll be thinking about what I'm doing, and just thinking about it like that gets in the way of writing well. For me, at least.

So yes, I struggle to get the balance right, and usually manage it only when I stop thinking about what I'm writing and instead immerse myself into it. It's not easy but I can do it. And I've got to this point by reading a huge amount, writing a huge amount, finding out about block and flow, and working on those things a lot, for a long time. And of course, by focusing on process rather than product--on the writing, rather than on getting it published and earning money from it.

blacbird
02-27-2017, 06:55 AM
I handle it by not worrying about it. Trying to "plan" or find some kind of mathematical equation to achieve "balance" strikes me as a complete waste of time and mental energy.

caw

Maxinquaye
03-02-2017, 11:21 PM
There is sometimes a need to shut out the pseudonyms on the internet who with great assurance, and keen insistance, will tell new writers that there is one way to do things, and one way alone. :greenie

It's not true. The best way is often to ignore the voices on the internet, and study pages in books to see how it's done. I feel like I have become much calmer about my writing since I stopped listening to writing advice, and only tried to see what books did.

To that end, as one internet pseudonym spouting bullshit about writing on the internet, what I have landed in is analogous to breathing. A story with only stage direction is a script, not a novel. A novel is a breathing thing. It breathes in action, and breathes out responses that define character.

For instance, in a hastily constructed few examples, look at this process, and you will see that the breathing out of reflection and character foundation is more important than the breathing in of action and doing.

Breathe in: "A gun went off."

Breathe out:

(1) Deirdre flinched and looked around, first to the left and then to the right. Her brow became a thin line. What kind of madman brought a gun here? There were children playing in the park. She dusted off her lap, stood, and went toward the park to see if they were all right.

(2) John put the hammer down on the workbench and looked toward the sound. The flat, sharp crack told him that it was a high calibre weapon, probably a rifle. Someone was shooting cans or targets. He winced. Whoever the hell it was should be banned from owning guns, because shooting targets in a residential area was completely irresponsible.

(3) Allison's heart dropped. After the sound of the gun, there was the unmistakable echoes of a Hind helicopter. The heat took on the feel of Kabul in 1985, and when someone across the street yelled, she felt like she was back in Afghanistan, and the Mujahedin was sailing into town to look for fun and danger.

_lvbl
06-29-2017, 09:20 PM
For me, my first draft is almost always like, bereft of exposition, so my writing tends to read very light-on-its-feet at first. It's only with editing that I am able to identify which areas need more time, more detail, more expansion so that the weight is placed appropriately where I need it to be.

randi.lee
06-29-2017, 09:45 PM
There is sometimes a need to shut out the pseudonyms on the internet who with great assurance, and keen insistance, will tell new writers that there is one way to do things, and one way alone. :greenie


:snoopy:

blacbird
06-30-2017, 06:20 AM
For conversation's sake, I'm interested in how other writers approach the balance between action and reflection in fiction.

Utterly dependent on and dictated by the story itself. This is something I never worry about.

caw

AnthonyDavid11
07-07-2017, 11:44 AM
For conversation's sake, I'm interested in how other writers approach the balance between action and reflection in fiction.

It seems like young writers are always told to focus on action- I've even heard the advice that it's poor writing to ever use the past tense of to be because it's not active enough. As we grow older and gain experience, however, writers learn to balance action with reflection, introspection, or general philosophizing within the story. Nobel laureate Patrick Modiano wrote novellas almost entirely in thoughts and feelings with barely a trace of plot.

Personally, I find myself writing almost entirely "in the moment" on the first draft and only add in these more subtle layers in later versions. I always feel rushed to jot down the scene as rapidly as possible when I first think of it or I'm afraid that I'll lose the idea.

How do you handle this? Is it something you do consciously, or does finding this balance come to you intuitively? Do you find yourself leaning one way or the other?

I lean toward action first for sure. I like the Dwight V. Swain method of scene and sequel. Reflection is definitely part of it and an important part. Lots of decisions come from these more passive scenes, but I must say that I keep them to a minimum. I believe most readers want that plot moving. So I lean toward it first and foremost and add reflection in later. After all, the natural progression is actions and then reflections.