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Uncle Orson's Writing Class
Thought vs. Action
April 19, 2002


Question:

Chapter 5 of Shadow of the Hegemon had an extensive scene with Peter in the library, and it was all his thoughts, and there was no action. It was all in his mind. But I loved the chapter. It was the best chapter so far in the book, because Peter's POV was so enjoyable and interesting to stay in, and the story was told all in his thoughts. How do you do that without boring people, becoming stale, etc. I was warned once, never have your characters sitting around thinking and solving problems. Have them solve problems through action. That sounds like 'sound' advice, but Chapter 5 with Peter definitely shows how you can have almost an entire chapter of a person's thoughts as he sits at a desk in a library, and you succeed in capturing not only my attention but I enjoyed it. Is this one of those skills that you were born with, and I shouldn't even try, or can it be learned?

-- Jason F. Smith

OSC Replies:

Thought is action, if in the process you see someone learn something, change his mind, discover new motives for his or others' actions, etc. If the reader (and/or the character) has important questions and realizes the answer in an interesting way, that is action. Whereas a chase scene where you don't know or care who is chasing whom or what will happen if they do or don't catch them is not action. It's just motion.

-- 19 April 2001


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