How I Create Action By Attempting To Destroy The Plot

Bland vs. real action

Many writers struggle to create genuine action in their writing.

We don’t wanna break stuff.

We don’t want other people to think we’re mean.

And we really, really don’t want to write ourselves into scary corners where we can’t get out. This kind of phobia of dark corners is probably some kind of writerly-defense against ridicule and abandoning-project-itis.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to, say, practiced horror writers, or people who pride themselves on being raw.

But I do think a lot of us have this kind of trouble.

Many first drafts are really prologues, by which I mean, the characters are established, the locale is detailed, and the relationships are begun.

When I ask myself: What would destroy my ability to write any more of this plot? and then I write that down, and find a way through it, that is when my fiction becomes, shall we say, really good.

BAD Writing (Hubbub):

Sophia lay the cloth over the table, and began to pin a pattern to the glorious purple fabric.

“You will have to take Barkom with you,” she said, her eyes on the velvety stuff.

Aron shuffled his shoulders, and glared down at the purple cloth. Sophia glanced up at him, and hid a smile.

“You aren’t going to find your way to the Gemlo quadrant without him,” she pointed out.

“Barkom smells bad,” Aron muttered.

“Hold this,” she said, thrusting a pair of laser shears at Aron. He took them, and wrinkled his nose.

“Is this going to take forever?” he demanded.

“They’ll kill you, if you aren’t wearing purple,” Sophia replied.

GOOD Writing (Real Action):

Sophia pulled a ream of tattered purple cloth over Aron, and fixed a pair of pins around his neck.

“This is disgusting,” he told her, his nose wrinkled. Flutters of dust and moldy spores flew up from the swishing lengths of the cloth, which had lain abandoned in the ship’s stores for a decade.

“I’ll wear it, if you like,” Barkom snorted through his mouthpiece. Fog and spittle clouded around his snout, and the metallic thrum under his words mixed with the unpleasant odor of fouled clothes that hung perpetually about him.

“They’re less likely to kill you,” Sophia told Barkom, who snorted heavily. “Purple is seen as a marker of honesty in the Gemlo quadrant,” she told Aron, plucking a pair of dead hold-rats from the skirts of the fabric.

“What about you?” Aron demanded, watching her toss the tiny corpses back into the storage locker.

“Oh, I’m not coming,” Sophia said brightly. “Someone has to guard the ship.”

If you have resistance to breaking stuff, set yourself up for failure (example: must wear cloth, but it’s nasty and ratty), and write through whatever happens next. The action will be better for it.