Increasing tension in transition
Adventures in NaNoWriMo

Keeping low action scenes interesting NaNoWriMo day 16

Preparing for the attack

Low action scenes don’t have to be boring. Day 16 will be devoted to creating battle plans. Whether this is a literal fight or just an offensive against the antagonist will depend on your story. But showing all that preparation can bring the forward momentum of your story to a dead halt.

Movies will often solve this problem by using a montage to show preparations. In a book, pick a meaningful moment and expand it into a full scene. Maybe the reluctant hero takes a new recruit under his wing. Or he finally realizes his love interest likes him too. This can also be an opportunity to show the lie isn’t really gone. In the Lego Batman movie, Batman may have let Robin on the team, but he is still clearly using him.

Low action scenes: Some pitfalls

Info dumpinglow action scenes

It’s easy to fall into the trap of having your entire cast around the table and talk through their battle plans. This happens constantly in movies where we have a long scene of telling. The danger here is telling can be boring.

Keep the focus of the scene on the personal conflict between the characters not on relating the information on the battle plans. As long as the characters are the focus the tension in this scene will remain. Even if the main character is doing nothing but listening, make sure your main character is still reacting to what’s happening.

As you know dialogue

increasing tension in low action scenes-www.themanuscriptshredder.comNothing sounds worse in dialogue been having two characters talk about things both of them already know. This is called as you know dialogue. Here are a few tricks to getting information into speech and still keeping it sounding natural.

(For more on creating great dialogue click here)

Have characters argue. This is the only time characters will realistically say things the each other already knows. Arguments keep the tension in the scene between the characters. This tension will give your scene purpose. Scenes must always have a character-driven purpose, otherwise, they are boring to readers.

Readers may also forgive info dumping in dialogue if you are clever about it. For example in Moana, Moana speaks through her entire battle plan for defeating Te Fiti despite being alone on the boat. Then, it’s revealed that she’s talking to the chicken. This works because it’s funny.

The Dull Before the Storm

Preparation scenes don’t have to be boring.

Use character moments to:

  • Remind readers of the stakes
  • Reveal the main character’s fears
  • Humanize the main character

Low action scenes are opportunities for readers to connect with characters.

Think of this scene as the set up to your battle. Make sure all the pieces are in place: the stakes the character motivations, and goals. This will ensure your readers are invested. Otherwise, the upcoming failure will be meaningless.

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M.L. Keller is a freelance writer and editor. Her blog "The Manuscript Shredder" is focused on helping emerging writers hone their craft.

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