Action First


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

Readers have a tough job. They have to create entire worlds in their minds using only two things: 1) your words, 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. It can be very tedious … unless you help them!

One quick, effective way to grab your readers’ attention—and keep them captivated—is to put the action first.

Here’s a made-up line I’ll use as an example:

DULL: 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.

Not good. The reader has to wade through twenty-six words of long, long, long description (narration) before getting to the action—bricks smashing through the windows. It’s too easy to get bored and distracted, and readers may not even finish slogging through the sentence.

Why doesn’t it work? By the time a reader gets 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! 🙂 

EFFECTIVE: 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 our attention is snagged immediately?  It’s the exact same sentence, but rearranging the words makes all the difference. (We’d also want to cut out those long details to keep the energy flowing.)

Here’s another example:

DULL: 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.

EFFECTIVE: 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 gripped immediately when we read “She screamed … lightning struck her”—vivid, exciting action! Then we eagerly keep reading to see what happens next.

Savvy Writer Tip:

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 immediate action and energy! 🙂

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