With this thread, I would like to explore some action vs. reaction for your characters. What we want to do is to take real responses and broadcast them in our novels to make fuller characters. Every character should respond differently to stimuli in your fiction no matter what genre you’re writing.

For my examples, I’m not going to try to sway you with colorful language. I’m going to take a boring narrator’s approach and let you see which one is more compelling.


There’s a group of eight people standing in a circle. One of them pulls out a handgun and fires three shots in the sky. All the characters jump to the ground. They are afraid for their lives.


Not bad. That sounds pretty realistic. But if you want to add some flavor to your story, mix up the reactions. Because in real life, people will respond in different ways.


There’s a group of eight people standing in a circle. One of them pulls out a handgun and fires three shots in the sky. One man dives on the ground. Three others flee the scene. Another man begs for his life. One woman is frozen in place. And the other woman is on her knees praying to God.


Whew! That was tough for me because I very much wanted to spruce up the second one. But, I toned it down because I wanted to prove a point. When your characters respond differently to a stimulus, your story becomes more colorful on its own.

Now think about the things that you are writing or the things that you want to write. How can you change up the reactions of the characters even just a wee bit to express their differences in their thought processes?

FANTASY EXAMPLE: (warning. fiery language has been reinstated.)

Tellus trudged up to the ferocious dragon. It’s plated scales formidably reflected the moonlight across the barren landscape. The creature’s heavy-panted breathing rumbled across the night sky.

But Tellus wasn’t afraid. He had trained for this. With his usual confidence he reached over and clanged shields with Joniv, and she too, was equally as prepared.

The dragon edged towards them with its jagged claws cutting through the parched terrain. As it breathed, gusts of wind soared passed Tellus’ face. But he didn’t stop walking. With a booming growl that reverberated across the land, the dragon emitted a ferocious roar.

The bellow was never-ending, and the scales from the beast rattled together while bursts of emerald light escaped through its skin. What was it doing? More scattered illuminations shot out through the scales. Its body quaked and the sound of thunder echoed all around. From each blast another dragon appeared from no where. This beast was multiplying itself. Several became dozens and dozens became hundreds.

“Run!” Tellus yelled. But Joniv stood still. Her shield dropped to the ground. And her gaze was petrified while her legs refused to move. Tellus yanked her arm and dragged her away. She stumbled backwards, trying to catch her balance.

So that’s an on the whim ten minute approach. Not the best, but the idea is to let you see how their confidence is broken by the stimulus of these dragons multiplying. If they both run, then that works. But if one stands still and the other has to get her to run, then you have a more vivid expression of the terror you are trying to create.

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