writing tips - Page 3

How to Balance High Action with Deep Characterization


Dear Editor…

I’m writing a teen thriller, filled with lots of action. Beta readers say I’ve got the action but that the characters aren’t interacting enough. I don’t really know what they mean, since the protagonist and her protector are in every scene together. They talk all the time! Ideas? Can you recommend some books that do it right?

T. E. S.

Dear T. E. S….

It may be that all their chatter is plot-related fact delivery, backstory delivery, or action-steeped stuff like, “Run! … Is he gone? … We’re safe.” That doesn’t do much to deepen characterizations. Give characters something to talk about and bond/conflict over that isn’t directly related to the plot. Then, to make sure that Something doesn’t feel random and unconnected, work it into the resolution of the story. Kenneth Oppel’s Michael L. Printz Honor Book Airborn balances high action and character interaction. His characters both bond and clash over social class and gender inequality, constantly stumbling over their internalized prejudices even as they both sincerely reject those prejudices. These issues have nothing to do with the pirate raids that make up the major action, yet they create characterization opportunities and eventually factor into how the characters work together to escape the pirates. What say you, Readers? What are your favorite books that balance high action and character interaction?

The Editor

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