RedPen Editing
Balancing action and thought

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Balance, in terms of word count for individual scenes, and for main sections of a story (beginning, middle, end) was discussed here.

Balance can also be an issue when interspersing action with thought.

  • The action might be dialogue spoken or heard by the POV (point of view) character. It might be physical movement witnessed by the POV character.
  • Thought can only be that of the POV character.

It’s not necessary to equalise the number of words spent on action with that spent on thought. Indeed, for a single action, it might be appopriate to follow it with much thought, before the next action.

The ‘balance’ between the two will determine how the reader engages.
  • For a fast-pace thriller, there may be a lot of action and very little thought.
  • Other novels might have spurts of action/dialogue interrupting much thought.

The balance to aim for depends on what you are trying to achieve.

To check your writing, to see if you’ll need to address the balance, first identify the action/dialogue. You could embolden it. What’s left unemboldened is ‘thought’.

Look at the ratio of the number of words (or lines of text) used for both. Do you have the required mix?

  • If there is too much thought between successive actions, you could insert some more action, or prune the thought.
  • If there appears to be too little thought between actions, consider what else might your POV character think before the next action occurs.

Remember: no padding!