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Action (narrative)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In literature, action is the physical movement of the characters.[1][2]

Action as a literary mode


"Action is the mode [that] fiction writers use to show what is happening at any given moment in the story," states Evan Marshall,[3] who identifies five fiction-writing modes: action, summary, dialogue, feelings/thoughts, and background.[4] Jessica Page Morrell lists six delivery modes for fiction-writing: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition.[5] Peter Selgin refers to methods, including action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, and description.

While dialogue is the element that brings a story and its characters to life on the page, and narrative gives the story its depth and substance, action creates the movement within a story. Writing a story means weaving all of the elements of fiction together. When it is done right, weaving dialogue, narrative, and action can create a beautiful tapestry.[6] A scene top-heavy with action can feel unreal because it is likely that characters doing something—anything at all—would be talking during the activity.[7]

See also



  1. ^ Kempton (2004, p. 67)
  2. ^ Turco (1999, p. 81)
  3. ^ (Marshall 1998, p. 142)
  4. ^ (Marshall 1998, pp. 143–165)
  5. ^ (Morrell 2006, p. 127)
  6. ^ Kempton (2004, p. 67)
  7. ^ Kempton (2004, p. 75)


  • Kempton, Gloria (2004), Write Great Fiction: Dialogue, Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, ISBN 1-58297-289-3
  • Marshall, Evan (1998). The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. pp. 143–165. ISBN 1-58297-062-9.
  • Morrell, Jessica Page (2006). Between the Lines: Master the Subtle Elements of Fiction Writing. Cincinnati, OH: Writer's Digest Books. ISBN 978-1-58297-393-7.
  • Turco, Lewis (1999), The Book of Literary Terms: The Genres of Fiction, Drama, Nonfiction, Literary Criticism, and Scholarship, Hanover: University Press of New England, ISBN 0-87451-954-3