Action vs. Setting

Posted: April 23, 2011 in Writing

So, I am sitting here, doing a bit of writing, and it got me to thinking about my prose a bit. The other day I was reading “The Art of War for Writers” by James Scott Bell. It is one of my go to inspirational sources. In it he talks about scene openings and purposes. I have fallen into the habit of getting a good amount of setting into my openings. It was something that I have been working on for a while now.

As I read what I wrote, it felt too slow. It was good (in my estimation), but it lacked momentum. It didn’t go forward at all. I didn’t even want to read further in my own work.

Then Mr. Bell’s words came forward in my brain. To create momentum, I needed some of my scenes to open with the action in the scene, and then get the setting worked in. By reworking some of my openings I have been able to create a little bit of ebb and flow in my work. Opening with action pushing things forward, and then opening some scenes with setting in order to create a little bit of breathing room.

So I guess that is my advice for all who are listening. Use your scene openings to dictate the pace of your writing. Action will speed things up, and setting will slow things down. Use them both and you will get a very natural feeling story.

  1. sonia says:

    I do that all the time! I have to try and make an conscious effort to start with action.

  2. jmcmurray says:

    It’s good to hear that I’m not alone, Sonia. Even though a lot of what we as writers face occurs to all of us, it is often done in solitude. Hearing of another’s experiences can help you soldier on, as they say.

    Who is this mysterious “they” by the way? Just asking.

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