on Writers Helping Writers:
Cause and effect. Stimulus and response. Action and reaction. Everything in a story depends on what the characters do about whatever the story pushes them up against.
Stiff, disconnected, or missing character reactions snap the chain of cause and effect that constitutes your story. When readers can no longer see how and why the characters are doing what they’re doing, they lose the thread.
Let’s talk about the three most common action–reaction misfires I see in manuscripts.
1. Missing or insufficient reactions
2. Jumbled responses
3. Purposely obscured stimuli