If you remember much from your school days (which is getting harder by the year for this fence jumper) you’re familiar with Newton’s Third Law of Motion – For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction (a force when an object interacts with another interaction).
For example, if I throw a rubber ball against the wall in anger, the wall is gonna push back and one of several things will happen: 1) I’ll catch it; 2) I will miss it and it will crash into my antique lamp; or 3) it will fly back and sock me in the nose (the most likely scenario). That’s a silly example, but you get the drift. Now, think about writing and how this law relates to your characters and their dialogue.
Dwight V. Swain, author of Techniques of the Selling Writer discusses how to identify “the code of efficient prose, Motion-Reaction Units (MRU); and, in her post, Motivation-Reaction Units: Cracking the Code of Good Writing, K.M. Weiland breaks it down even further by providing excellent examples.
Simply put, something motivates your character to react. An action, deed, event, conversation, impulsiveness, or fear, to name a few. The possibilities of what that motivation is depends on your character, and your story. The list of motivations can be long, winding, and provide depth to your story. Whatever it is that motivates a character to action, the reactions will help propel the story forward, introduce complications, the ante, and used to reveal.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind When Using MSU’s:
- Motivations, the actions and reactions must run in a logical manner. They have to make sense to your reader. Introducing a reaction before the cause or motivation sows confusion.
- According to K.M. Weiland, MRU’s typically are divided into three parts: feelings/thoughts, action, and speech.
- Not all three of these elements are always necessary; well-written dialogue can reveal a lot about the characters reaction.
- Reaction doesn’t always mean a physical reaction; sometimes, it’s mental or emotional. It should, however, be clear to the reader.
Using MRU’s is a tool which we can use to bring our scenes, characters, and dialogue to life, making them feel real and authentic to the reader. Check out K.M. Weiland’s post, Motivation-Reaction Units: Cracking the Code of Good Writing and tell me what you think. Do you use this technique or something different? Share it with the Fence Jumpers, we’d love to hear all about it.
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