Andra ‘the Madam’ Ashe puts her sexy lab coat on and tells us why Newton’s third law of physics applies to fiction.
I’m nowhere near being a Nerdy Ninja and Newton’s law of ‘force and motion’ still sounds too much like something that can be fixed with a good dose of prunes, but his Third Law has insinuated itself into my writing life to the point where I expect to sprout ‘mad scientist’ hair at any moment.
Ike’s law has made my own writing stronger and the fact that it has, in turn, ruined some of my reading experiences in itself only goes to proves his theory that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’.
Why is it so? (Apologies for mixing my scientists)
Pardon me for a moment while slip into a white lab coat — people tend to take more notice of a scientist than a writer.
Learning about the importance of ‘scene and sequel’ or ‘action and reaction’ was a revelation to me. By ensuring I show my character’s reaction to what has just happened I didn’t have to think so much about ‘what happens now’. I now check that for every scene I write there is an ‘action’ (something happens) there is either a subsequent scene showing the response by one of the characters either physically (by the character being spurred on to do something) or emotionally (by the character coming to a realisation about either themselves or the other character) so that the story is pushed forward.
I’m a weird hybrid between plotter and pantzer. I know my main plot points but wander somewhat aimlessly from one to the next. Schooling myself to think ‘action/reaction’ avoids the temptation to write scenes that serve no real purpose and ending up with a string of scenes where stuff just happens, seemingly just for the sake of getting words on the page.
Finding opportunities to show a reaction to a smaller action within a scene makes me think more deeply about a character, who they are, what they feel and how that makes them behave. In my current WIP, the heroine’s bed is reflected as she sits at her mirror. What could have just been an excuse to describe the bed instead became the ‘action’ of her noticing it leading to her ‘reacting’ by remembering her husband and that only love will let her take someone to that bed. This point will be important later in the story and has inspired a scene which is already bubbling away in my head — another one of those stepping stones I have to find my way to and which will need its own ‘reaction’.
As a reader, I try to keep my writer persona at bay. However, as a writer, if I’m reading a well written story, and I’m lost in it and not looking at technicalities, sometimes there’s a stand-off when my expectation are not met.
In a book I read recently I found myself, on more than one occasion, wondering when I was going to get a character’s reaction to what I considered some fairly major occurrences. I waited and waited and ... nothing. I was irritated and let down by the author, and the heroine subsequently had less credibility and appeal for me. It bothered me to the point where I had to ‘vent’ in this article but (as Sir Ike predicted) it also reinforced my belief that action/reaction is vital to creating a strong, believable story.
Hmmm, I’m quite enjoying this sexy lab coat so I may just explore one remaining law — inertia. I could do with a nap.