The Larger Picture and the Smaller Picture, part 2
The Smallest Picture: Motivation Reaction Units
Now let's look at the smallest picture in your story: the Motivation Reaction unit.
Events in your story can be broken down into a cause, followed by an effect. A "motivating stimulus" followed by a "character reaction."
1) Pick your motivating stimulus carefully. It should be significant to the character--her personality and/or goal will influence what she notices around her. It should also be pertinent for the plotline--your reader will assume every stimulus is important for the story.
2) The stimulus should require your character's immediate action.
1) It should be a reactive feeling, a chosen action, and/or specific words spoken. Not all reactions need to include all three (feeling, action, speech), but at the very least, your character's actions and/or speech should indicate her reactive feeling. Emotion is key.
2) The reaction should be in character (or reveal the character's personality) and a reasonable response. Nothing will put a reader off more than a stupid reaction to a stimulus--the infamous "Too Stupid to Live" heroines from horror flicks.
3) The reaction should serve to forward the story.
The M-R Unit:
The simplest MR Unit is two sentences:
a. Write a sentence without your character (motivation, or cause)
b. Follow it with a sentence about your character (reaction, or effect)
The man in the corner turned and took off his hat, revealing his features. (motivation)
Sara's hand tightened around her water glass. (reaction)
It slipped through her fingers and crashed on the floor. (motivation)
She ducked her flaming face and crouched down to pick up the pieces. (reaction)
The thump of a pair of cowboy boots grew closer, then stopped behind her. (motivation)
Her heart stopped beating as she waited for him to speak. (reaction)
Your scene is built on M-R Units. Once you get used to writing them, they'll become automatic. Like learning to drive: at first you have to remember each action--like pressing the brake, turning the key, putting the car in gear--but eventually it all becomes second nature.
Remember the scene you thought up in the last article (The Larger Picture: Character, Setting, Story)? Now write it using M-R Units.
Next: Scene and Sequel--Scene
NOTE: Information in this article is taken from the classic "Techniques of the Selling Writer" by Dwight V. Swain.
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