A writing instructor of mine once said, “Action stops the story from moving forward.” How can that be? There are bullets flying and police cars flipping? What do you mean the story stops? The characters at this point are just trying to stay alive, or finish the dance, or make it to the wedding on time. It’s the spaces between the action where a character weighs her options and makes a decision. This time out from action is where the story moves forward, because our character must react, internally, to what’s just happened. And now she must choose her response. Does she run? Fight? Surrender? What affects her decision can be anything, maybe she learned how to shoot a blowgun while living in Borneo, so she decides to build one. But in the process of making the decision, we come to know the character better, understand her fears and buy into her motivations. She reveals her genuine self, and in the process, we see a bit of ourselves there, too.
Movies have a limited capability express this ‘space between action’ which Jack Bickham calls ‘sequel.’ Many novelists revel in their sequels, often allowing them to dominate the pacing of their work. For some, writing internal monologue comes so easily and reveals so much about their characters that they overdo it. But internal monologue is not the only device available to deconstruct action. Our main character may discuss his dilemma with a foil, but hopefully that foil has more flesh on their bones than just providing a sounding board for our hero. Our character may choose another action to help deconstruct a troubling event, he may set out to get drunk for example, but in the process, he may discover his new direction by reading the limerick on the beer bottle.
The sequel provides an expository transition from one scene to another. The story is enriched and launched forward in the sequel. Hours, days or decades might pass in the course of a sequel. Full scenes or partial scenes may pop out here and there. But if one action scene is followed by another, your novel might read like the current installment of an action movie series. Consciously construct these sequels and manage your pacing and your reader will stay awake for the next shoot out.