Writing Advice: Cause and Effect


Author: badwasabi

Have you ever watched a movie? A TV show? Animation? Literally anything with a narrative?

…Yes?

Great,
so you’ve seen a reaction shot. When someone says or does something,
and they cut to someone else looking shocked, or surprised, or happy.

And?

Didja ever see one that had “in response to what  said” on the screen?

No?

Great.

So why do you do it when you write?

If someone reads

Alex looked grim .“The President…has been hit with a pie.”

Bobbie gasped.

then it’s pretty clear that Bobbie’s gasping at the news, not, say, Alex’s tie. You don’t have to write

Alex looked grim .“The President…has been hit with a pie.”

Bobbie gasped at Alex’s words.

In fact, the first version is so clear that you can play with it for comedy;

Alex looked grim .“The President…has been hit with a pie.”

Bobbie gasped. “Alex, your tie is hideous!” she said.

(In case you’re wondering, the relevant TVTropes page is “Comically Missing the Point”.)

Did
you watch the first episode of MLP:FIM? Remember when Twilight meets
Pinkie Pie, who just gasps and runs off? The viewer thinks she’s scared.
We later find out that she ran off to throw a party for the new mare in
town.

You only need to clarify if “Bobbie” is reacting to something other than what he or she just heard, or could be reacting to several things,
and you want to say which one. Over-explaining can ruin a scene’s flow,
and even experienced and pro writers do it.

Scott Adams once took a business writing course. He mentions a neat trick in How to Fail at Everything; imagine someone is going to pay you $100 for every unnecessary word you remove. You’ll slim your story down more than a vegan at the national BBQ championship.

To sum up: you don’t need to explain cause and effect when the cause and the effect are right next to each other.



[ My writing advice posts | Chronological order ]


Author: badwasabi

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