Action First!


Want to GRAB your readers’ attention instantly? Here’s how!

Readers have to create and see entire worlds in their minds using only two things: 1) the words you choose, 2) pages and pages of black text that they read linearly, one word at a time, trying to connect everything together, no voice inflections or sensory clues—only words, words, words, words. You need to capture their attention immediately!

One quick, effective way is to put the action firstOur brains are wired to lock on to the action and scan or skip over the rest.

Here’s a made-up line as an example:

BORING: The elegant, ancient, four-story mansion that was preserved down through an impressive lineage of historical heroes that once occupied its sacred halls was desecrated by bricks smashing though the windows.

Ugh. The reader has to wade through twenty-six words of description (narration) before getting to the action—bricks smashing through the windows. It’s too easy to get bored and distracted, and by the time readers get to the actual action, the writing has lost all of its momentum. The bricks barely make an impression. Readers are captivated and pulled into a story by seeing and experience action. So start with action! 🙂 

BETTER: Bricks smashed through the windows, desecrating the elegant, ancient, four-story mansion preserved down through an impressive lineage of historical heroes that once occupied its sacred halls.

See how it captures our attention by putting the action first?  It’s the exact same sentence, but rearranging the words makes all the difference. Add in more action and cut out unnecessary details to keep the energy flowing!

BEST: Three dark figures stood up in the back of the pickup, hurling bricks and shattering the windows of the four-story mansion, desecrating the historical landmark. 

Here’s another example:

BORING: The heavy rain drenched her as it poured down in unrelenting torrents, and she screamed and collapsed when lightning struck her, searing through her body.

BEST: She screamed as lightning struck her, searing through her body. She collapsed, the heavy rain drenching her as it poured down in unrelenting torrents.

We are instantly gripped when we read “She screamed … lightning struck her … she collapsed”—vivid, exciting action! We’ll eagerly keep reading to see what happens next.

Savvy Writer Tip:

Our brains are wired to notice action immediately. To snag and keep readers’ attention, put the action first. Keep your sentences rushing forward with striking visuals. Cut out all excessive narration. Hook your readers with action and energy! 🙂

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