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The Lull

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 27, 2021
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So you've just written a kick-ass, exciting sequence, and you are already looking forward to the next awesome, kick-ass exciting sequence that is coming right up…

…after the dreaded lull: the scenes in a story that have to take place between the exciting sequences. The scenes where technically plot-wise, nothing much happens.

The scenes where people might glance at their watches or wish there was a fast forward button (if you're updating a webcomic weekly, there is no FF button like in something complete).

But is it really a deadzone between exciting stuff? Is it really a pause in the plot progression where nothing of consequence happens?

It can be, if you let it.

But these lulls in the plot progression, the transitional scenes of getting from Exciting Stuff A to Exciting Stuff B can be vital to making the plot matter.

When characters are busy doing things they don't have time for character development. They don't have time to make you, the audience, care about them, their strife, and the stakes they need to face. They simply have to hustle and do the thing, be exciting, be active.

Only they won't come across as exciting and engaging to the audience if time hasn't been invested in getting to know them. And the lull is where you get to know the characters of a story:

A campfire where they just rest and talk, or take stock of what happened, or simply process things together or on their own will yield some of the most engaging, powerful dialogues for getting to feel that the characters are real people, people you care for.

Not just a campfire of course- a beach scene, a fight, a convalescence sequence, a ‘feedback scene’ (where one character assesses the actions of another, whether they have the right or not), and more are scenes from the lull that make the characters who they are.

Growth, maturing, realignments happen during downtime, where the lull is. And if paced right, the interaction between the characters (even if it's an interaction between a character and their own self) can be just as fascinating as their cool action sequences.

The lull is also where important background can be given. Woven in the interactions, you can give the audience information on the worldbuilding, the stakes, how things work in the situation the characters are, history, and more.

When the characters have to pick up and fight again, you are more invested in that fight, you need them to win, so they can keep being them, you can explore more of the world through their eyes, and you can rejoice in their triumph. In the next lull.

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anonymous?

TheJagged at 1:14PM, Nov. 29, 2021

It tends to be the opposite for me, I find the 'lull scenes' much more interesting to write than the action scenes. Actions scenes always have the same structure, fist goes to face, sword goes through chest, dynamite goes boom. It's routine. With moments that drive character development you have so much more possibilities to come up with fun dialogue or let your characters be weird and cute and awkward. I like those small scenes. The moment where Character A finally understands Character B's motivations, or they realize they're more than friends. Or they realize they actually hate each others guts. It's a crucial moment of connection between your protagonists, and therefor the audience. All the emotional weight of a story lies in those little scenes.

PaulEberhardt at 6:29AM, Nov. 29, 2021

Many authors seem to run out of ideas about 2/3rds through and try to save the lull by having some lead characters make love to unwind - at least I noticed that a lot in contemporary thriller, fantasy and other fiction. I won't say that that's generally a bad idea, but once it has become a generic, predictable run-off-the-mill plotline (which it has) it's a waste of space. The lull is where you can really show off with your world building and/or your characters' backstories, and as long as that's interesting enough there will never be a problem. Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories provide good examples of how to do this, e.g. by answering the obvious question what successful rogue adventurers do with all the treasure they gained, among other things.

Banes at 6:38PM, Nov. 28, 2021

Definitely love those lull moments where we can see the characters deal with the exciting events that are happening. That can often be the best stuff in a story - especially ongoing series where we want to see how various characters are responding to events/changes

marcorossi at 7:36AM, Nov. 27, 2021

Personally I feel I have the opposite problem: I think the whole story to reach the climatic fighting scene, and since I know where I want to go I also know what the characters have to show during the scene, but then when I reach the climatic confrontation (that is more or less where i am with my comic now) I feel like I don't know how to write it.


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