The Laws of Physics–er, Writing
by Linda Yezak
by Linda Yezak
He eyed her from head to toe.
She hit him.
She thought he called her a name.
Sounds like a scene from a novel, doesn't it? In truth, these lines are derived from different novels in which the author presented an unanswered action.
“Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.”
This, the third of Sir Isaac Newton's laws of physics, should be the first law of writing. Whenever a character does something, there should be some sort of reaction.
The examples are from novels I've read where the author left me hanging after an action was portrayed. The first one, especially, yanked me out of the story: "He eyed her from head to toe." Since we were in her POV, we should've seen her reaction (even if we weren't in her POV). Believe me, a woman reacts to being scoped, and how this one reacted could've solidified her characterization. The author missed an opportunity, and the editor let him get away with it.
The next one, "She hit him," surprised me because she hit him hard in the legs with a metal object. At the very least, he should've said "ouch." He should've jumped up and down, holding one injured shin, then the other. He should've exclaimed something--anything--that would indicate pain. Should have, but didn't.
Authors should pay attention to what they're writing. They should visualize the scene and the natural reactions their characters should have to the stimulus presented–in a natural sequence. I emphasize the sequence, because I've also seen something similar to this:
She whacked him on the back with the board she toted. She didn't mean to, she just wasn't paying attention. When would she ever learn? She was so careless, such a klutz. Even her mother said so. What would her mother say if she saw her today? Nothing good, no doubt.
"Ouch," he said.
Oversimplified of course, but it happens when writers aren't paying attention to what they put on the page. That an author wouldn't realize what she's writing may seem odd, but if she's anxious about her next point or presenting a vital character quirk or whatever goal is on her mind, she's blinded to what she has written. And if the author is the type to deliver an unedited first draft to her editor, then it becomes the editor’s responsibility to bring these deficiencies to her attention.
Most writing rules can be broken by those who know how to artfully manipulate them, but this Law of Physics (writing) should be sacrosanct–every action has a reaction.
Two-time ACFW Genesis finalist Linda Yezak lives with her husband and three cats in the great state of Texas, where tall tales out-number the cattle and exaggeration is an art form. Aside from being a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, she is also a member of Women Writing the West and The Christian PEN. A popular speaker in the ArkLaTexOK area, she is a freelance editor, a content editor for Port Yonder Press, and has served as a judge in several nationwide writing contests. Her novel, Give the Lady a Ride, a western romantic comedy and 2008 Genesis finalist, debuted in March of 2011.