to keep his characters connected to the scene and readers connected to the characters.
Here’s a beat written by Dan Brown: After ending a phone conversation…“Nola rubbed her eyes and looked blearily back at her computer screens. She had not slept in over thirty-six hours, and she knew damn well she would not sleep again until this crisis had reached its conclusion.” (“The Lost Symbol, p. 200)
This sentence was not written as dialogue; it tells the readers what’s going on with Nola, the character in the scene, and makes her seem more real because as readers we can identify with her sleeplessness. The bit of action also creates an interruption to the dialogue and in this case, allows a smooth transition to a new scene.
As in our daily interactions, body language often tells us the truth more clearly than a truck load of words. That little bit of action, if described uniquely, can do the same for a character. How do we find exceptional beats? According to Browne and King, the authors of “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers”, Watch your friends…watch old movies…watch yourself. Keep an eye open for those little movements that bring your personality to the surface, the gestures that reveal who you are or how you’re feeling.” (p. 152)
Hmmm….how might I add a little bit of action to this tiny excerpt from my book?:
“Pay attention to your spirit, Kirk. Acknowledge what you are feeling inside. Do you feel anything but peaceful and protected when I am near?”
“I just want to go home. I want my life back. I want to talk with my Janie. Above all, I want to wake up and realize this was just a bad dream. Find another dream to haunt and please, just get out of mine!”