Do We Need to Write a Consequence for Every Action?

 

by Jean M. Cogdell

A reaction for every action? Large or small?

The short answer is yes. I think so.
Once I grasp this concept, things began going a little smoother. Now in each scene, I stop and ask what will the characters consequence be for each action.

Even the smallest of decisions can move a story forward. For instance, stopping to buy a coffee can result in meeting the right or wrong person. Turning left instead of right can result in an accident or a chance meeting. See. Each decision your character makes must have a consequence sooner or later to drive the story to the end.

It’s simple cause and effect.
My current work in progress I’m using action-reaction to move each scene forward. Even the most mundane of things.

 

Such as…

  • action: she pulled her sweater tighter
  • reaction: draws unwanted attention
  • action: he seeks her out
  • reaction: love or hate, life or death?

This could go further and carry on in another chapter. And with a little luck, things will fall into place like a row of dominos.

Look at a scene in your WIP. Is there any action that could use a reaction? Even if it is ordinary, mundane and everyday stuff it might be what you need to fill in the gaps.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Jean M. Cogdell. Jean grew up in a small SC town, near the Great Smoky Mountains. Her stories and essays are available in Fiction Southeast, Anthology Once Upon A Time, Flash Fiction World II, Scissors & Spackle, Squawk Back, WTD, YAREAH, and Angie’s Diary Online Magazine.

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11 thoughts on “Do We Need to Write a Consequence for Every Action?”

  1. While I agree many actions require a consequence, as a reader I think expecting this leads to too much knowledge, in that I now know that something seemingly insignificant must be important. Therefore, I prefer it if not every action has a consequence as it leaves me guessing a bit more.

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  2. Very interesting point for me. It goes both ways – something to build a scene immediately, or to build tension where the reader is waiting for the fallout. And in both situations there is the question of which characters will react – perhaps the one you’d least expect.
    Thank you.

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  3. This is what can make writing so exciting – tiny actions and reactions can reflect so much, lead to interesting tangents and outcomes. The only danger is becoming too tied up in creating these that the writing feels restricted and you tie yourself in knots. I guess it’s a matter of moderation, like everything else in life.

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  4. I’d like to think that everything needs a consequence, but there’s also that trap you can fall into where you get tempted to make every little innocuous action blow up into something much bigger than it needs to be

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  5. This reminds me of something Vonnegut said: “Every sentence must do one of two things: reveal character or advance the action.”

    That said, I toss this around in my mind quite a lot. What about describing setting or a character’s appearance? What about including a scene that better describes your story’s world, even if it has little significance for plot or character? I don’t know. I don’t disagree, not at all. These are just questions I ask myself.

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