Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Domino Effect: Fluid Transitions

We all know that a story is a set of dominoes, right? That inciting incident is the first flick that sets forth event after event until the last tile falls. What we don't think about is the third law that gets those tiles smashing into each other. Well, I mean, maybe we do, if we're in a science class or something. Shut up, this is writing. But these same laws that dictate the mechanics of the universe also dictate our writing. We have to understand these laws in and out and develop the skills to create this fluid and interesting transition from domino to domino (anyone else craving pizza?)

A story is a set of dominoes, but looking at it as event to event is on the macro scale. This is what the reader needs to see, but what the writer needs is on the micro scale—to understand what these events are made of and how they cause this domino effect. What I've told every apprentice I've ever owned (I mean...taught) is story's nothing but action, dialogue, and description. One always happens as a result of the other. A character doesn't say something out of the blue, just because. You aren't going to spend a whole paragraph describing a tree without that tree falling and killing your MC's mother. That's just the way a story ticks. 

"But H."  you might say, "I thought stories were supposed to be believable. Random events happen all of the time!" Yes. Yes they do (brat) And, yes, a story is supposed to be realistic enough to resonate with the human condition. So, yeah, randomness should happen as often as a butterfly's wings cause a storm. Hah. See what I did there? Even the most random event will set off a chain reaction to cause another. This is something you need to consider in your writing. While random events that have nothing to do with your story might happen in the world, you, as the writer, have the power to ignore them, and instead, focus on the events that will directly affect the plot—even if they don't seem like they will at the time.

One of my favorite techniques is to make the reader think something is random, and later have an "ohhhh" moment when they realize it wasn't. See, I have this chaotic good character who's too poor to afford clothes that fit. He goes off on a crazy tangent about this early in the story which my MC rolls her eyes at and brushes off as more of his insanity. Later, against all odds, they get out of a sticky situation only for his pants to fall down, trips them both up, and whaddya know? They get caught. But be careful with this. If you keep having seemingly unconnected incidents that connect later again and again, they're not random anymore. The reader will be expecting them, and they'll get bored.

Okay, let's back it up. What's all this about dialogue, description, and action? Yes, one can't happen without the other. We'll take one of my favorite books for example. To avoid spoilers, I'm not naming any names, but the MC's walking through a cave and describing nearly every damn nook and cranny. This is something you'll hear from every writer's mouth not to do (except mine...apparently) But for some reason, this works out okie-dokie in this situation. Heck, I was even excited about it! Why? Because the author got me interested early on. He connected this description to an action that took place the chapter before. There, the boy made this discovery about the place and runs off to find it. This action led directly into the description, which, in fact, lead straight into more action that connected back to description that then connected to dialogue that connected to more action, and...okay, I'll stop there, but do you see what's happening? The entire story is connected simply because one aspect (action, dialogue, description) falls into another (like dominoes!)

I'll get more into the gritty details of action, description, and dialogue next time, but for now, I've got an assignment for you (Yay! School! Best day ever!) Pick a page at random in your favorite book and look for how these three elements bleed into each other. If you want to take it a step further, with whatever book you're reading now, highlight something that seems totally out of place, then, whenever that "ohhhh" moment hits, highlight that. Well, unless that moment never hits. Then make note of how pissed you are at the author for wasting your time. Keep that in mind for your own writing. That's why fluid writing is so important. If those dominoes don't smack each other in just the right way, your story's going to have one hell of a disappointing ending, and nobody wants that. Except, like, elephants mate during the rainy season, and gestation takes twenty-two months. Interesting, right?

Current Stats
Watching: Avatar: The Last Air Bender
Listening: Pokemon battle music
Reading: Monsters of Men: Chaos Walking Book 3 by Patrick Ness
Playing: Metal Gear Solid 4
^^^What are ya'll up to? Comment below!^^^

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