Action/Reaction

An action must happen for there to be a reaction to that action. Before Bob can be appalled at Mark’s sexist statement, Mark must make said statement. If the reaction comes before the action, the sentence reads clunky and slow.

Sally cringed as the door slammed.

The door slamming is the action. Sally cringing is the reaction. The door caused Sally to cringe. Sally’s reaction shouldn’t happen BEFORE the action. Make sense?

The door slammed, and Sally cringed.

While the second sentence doesn’t look as smooth, it reads smoother. I had a beta a while back and his entire novel was sentences like the first one, with reactions before actions, and it was sluggish. It wasn’t smooth.

This happened as this other thing happened. – “As” indicates that the two things happened at the same time AS the other, together, not caused by a domino effect. So, if one action causes a reaction, don’t use AS. It’s a clunky sentence structure. Avoid it like a land mine.

Consider:

I ran as the ball came toward me. I didn’t want to be hit. Like Indiana Jones, I dodged as the ball closed the space. I threw myself; I landed in a heap of leaves as the ball rolled past me.

Or

The ball came toward me. I didn’t want to be hit; I ran. The ball closed the space and like Indiana Jones, I dodged. I threw myself; it rolled past. I landed in a heap of leaves, and the ball rolled past.

The second feels more immediate.

If you see this type of sentence structure in your manuscript, reword it so that the action comes first. Does the sentence flow better? Does it fit into the paragraph better?

 

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