When Writing, You’ve Gotta Switch It Up

Once upon a time, Morgan was watching a movie — one of the Matrix sequels. And. Well, the thing you’ve gotta know about her is she’s very excitable. With the movie in question, it started off with a chase scene and she was bouncing on the edge of her seat — literally! About 10 minutes into the chase scene, the fight is still going strong, but she has to sit back in her seat a little, her adrenaline is wearing off. 20 minutes in, she’s looking for her drink and waiting for the chase to end so we can get back to the characters and the plot.

While not all readers are as excitable as she is, they all have their limits, even with the biggest action sequences. When writing — be it for film or books, you’ve gotta switch it up!

Components of Stories

We all want to read or write good stories. But what sort of components make up a story? Sure, there are the letters of the alphabet, the parts of speech, but that’s a little too low level for what I’m thinking. How about the three-act structure, pacing, and tension? That’s a little high level.

I asked the internet, and they had a ton of wonderful suggestions: world-building, foreshadowing, backstory, intent, motivation — but most of those really fell under how you can USE the components I was thinking of. So, enough build-up, what are these story components, as defined by Morgan?

1 – Dialogue

This is what the characters are saying, typically with quotation marks, but maybe they’re texting or signing.

2 – Exposition

A little word for a BIG component. This is the character backstory, the history of your world, the politics of the cheer squad. It’s where you share information that’s hard to show. Because even the best authors can’t usually show everything.

3 – Description

Exploring the senses! Everything the narrator chooses to put on the page: from the smell of the stew, to the agony of the sword wound, to the silky-length of her brown hair.

4 – Inner Monologue

Where I like to dwell. While this often overlaps with exposition, you get more pure opinion here, plus all the emotions! What does he really think about his mentor?

5 – Action

Your fight scenes! Your romantic interludes. Your yawn-worthy class that your character tries to pass notes during (electronic or old school).

You Can’t Rely On Your Strength

Most writers have a component where, even on their bad days, they admit they excel at one (or more of these). On the flip side, most writers have a component (or two) that they have to work at. It’s usually pretty obvious where the writer’s comfort spot is, that’s what’s taking up most of the white space.

But, unlike the writers of the movie poor Morgan watched, you can’t just rely on your strengths, you’ve got to bring in those other components. (Unless you’re already a best-selling novelist. Then, your readers are there because of your strengths, and you can get away with a lot more.)

No matter which component you’re using, if you go more than two paragraphs without an element of a second (or more) component, you’re gonna start losing the attention of your readers.

Have talking characters doing things. Have fighting characters yell out witty repartee, or internally monologue about how scared and unprepared they are. Blend descriptions with the action and exposition. Have your internally monologing character pace the room or pet their cat.

By blending these 5 components, you breathe life into your scenes and keep your readers coming back for more.

Are there any components I missed?
Are you sure they aren’t a way of using one of these 5 tools?
Tell me about it! I’m okay with being wrong.

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