Writing plot and action in writing go hand-in-hand, but not all writers are clear about what constitutes action. Basically action in writing should have consequences in order for it to benefit plot. Let’s take a deeper look.
Action in Writing
I’ve had some pushback from writers in critique when I say that something their character is doing doesn’t count as action. “Of course it is!” they say. “My protagonist is DOING STUFF. Look, they are chopping vegetables for a stew!”
It finally struck me that I should probably define action in writing (as I use it) to keep this misunderstanding from happening. Action is NOT busywork (chopping veg, shopping, driving, hanging out). In the world of theatre, this stuff is called “business,” or things that actors do in a scene so that they’re not just sitting around and talking. It’s stuff.
But it has no larger meaning, or it might probably happen again in yet another scene where the character needs something to do. If that character didn’t chop those vegetables, the plot wouldn’t fall apart. So, therefore, while the thing is active, it’s not action.
Instead, if you’re interesting in writing plot that counts, keep this new definition in mind. Action in writing means something that has story consequences. Action means that the protagonist either comes into contact with another character or encounters an obstacle or makes an effort to reach a goal or does something in the world of the story that is significant and moves the story forward. Unless they are cutting vegetables for the stew that they will use to poison the king–and this action is the result of a big decision to finally commit treason–then it’s business, not action.
For everything your character does in scene, ask yourself whether you’re writing plot, or writing busywork. Removing unnecessary action in writing will help to speed up your pacing, too.
Is your plot dragging? Have you been accused of low stakes writing? Hire me as your manuscript editor and we can dig into your plot together.