Narrative Basics Lesson 2: Action

Describing action

Expanding action

Instead of summarising action, we can choose to go into detail. 

For example, here’s another Miles Morales snippet about a fight, but this one is described in close detail.

Benji flashed that raggedy, reptilian smile—Miles could hear his mouth curve, hear the thick saliva on the back of Benji’s tongue—and pushed against Miles’s shoulder to move him out of the way. But as soon as his hand touched Miles, Miles grabbed it and flung Benji around, away from Ganke. Benji shook his head clear and charged, but Miles leaped over him, a clean jump clearing Benji’s head.

Miles Morales: Spider-ManJason ReynoldsSource

By going into detail, we paint a more vivid picture that helps the reader feel like they are in the scene.

On the other hand, too much detail can make us feel like the story is progressing too slowly and make us lose interest. It’s a balancing act.

The wind picked up, violently tearing the umbrella from Sasha’s hands. She instinctively grabbed after it, but it had already begun to bounce and tumble ahead of her. The lunge threw her off balance, and she stumbled to the icy ground. The blizzard howled around her, and just as she thought she was going to lose sight of the umbrella, it snagged on a trembling tree. She half ran, half scrambled after it until she had it firmly grasped in her hands.

Henry could feel every tremor in his hand as he lowered the teacup inch by inch towards the tower of plates, bowls and dishes on his kitchen table. As the edge of the teacup touched the top plate, Henry sensed something shift, and watched in horror as a plate in the middle of the stack began to slide sideways and down, taking with it everything Henry had meticulously balanced there. A small fortune of crockery smashed on the ground, the pieces flying to every corner of the kitchen.

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