Balancing Action with Quiet

Photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar on Flickr
It happened again! I got another lovely question from one of you wonderful readers, who are always so good of pointing out what I haven’t yet written about. (That’s a good thing, by the way. Please continue).

Anyway, today’s question:
I've seen you talk about finding your inner sadist when writing and allowing your characters to fail once in a while. I was wondering: what do you think about allowing peaceful scenes in every so often? A lot of books I've read definitely have beautiful moments, but often they're interrupted and cut short. I've been wondering if it's possible to balance the bad things with beauty, and use peace as a tool for character development. I'd love to hear your thoughts. 
So it turns out, I’ve gotten so caught up in writing about being mean to our characters and pacing and what not that I maybe forgot to talk about the other side of the high-octane balance—the slower, peaceful scenes.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I love writing action-y books. The more fighting, blood, fatal wounds, deaths and near-death experiences, the better. I’ve been known to blow things up and set things on fire just because I was getting bored with a scene.

That being said, even in really exciting, edge-of-your-seat-type books, you need to give your readers (and your characters) some time to recuperate.

Quiet, peaceful and even beautiful scenes are absolutely essential to even the most exciting plots. Readers, like your characters, can get tired of non-stop action if it’s really non-stop. Without slower moments to balance out the faster, crazy-exciting scenes, you can very easily end up with reader burnout. Not to mention the shock and intensity of action scenes fade the more you use them—like any writing spice, the key is not to overdo it.

Now, that’s not to say that the quiet scenes should be boring—even when there isn’t active, injury-producing conflict going on, it’s important to make sure you have some sort of tension throughout the scene. But these slower scenes can be a great time for character development and introspection, as long, of course, as it’s well-balanced.

What do you think? Do you use quiet scenes to balance out more intense moments? 

Twitter-sized bite: 
Do you use quiet scenes to balance out more intense moments? @Ava_Jae writes about the importance of balance. (Click to tweet)


Robin Red said...

This is absolute. The quiet moments are perfect times for reflection, for characters to feel the weight of whatever happened in the action moments. There's no room for revelational dialogue and grief in the middle of fiery explosions and starship battles.

Ava Jae said...

So true! Thanks so much, Robin! I completely agree.

RoweMatthew said...

I think I'm like you. I get bored in quiet scenes and blow stuff up to make it interesting. I worked in a magical explosion once that altered the fabric of space-time because I was bored with my characters getting to the next scene, but that's a different thing to having time to reflect, recover or adjust to revelations and things that happened during such moments. I always have those because its often easier to get inside the character's head and really show how they function.

Ava Jae said...

Ha! Sounds like you're definitely like me. Explosions, violence and kissing seem to be my go-to "fix this boring scene" solutions. :D

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