World Building with Bonsart: How to write a sentence? 1/2

Updated: Mar 25


In the first part I talked about the difference between World Building and 'Building the World'. The mayor take away was that World Building is not stating facts about a world or its history. World Building is about characters interacting with the world and its history.


Interactions and world building are in parallel. If you're writing something like. "He picked up a gun". For that to work, guns need to exist in the world to begin with don't they. Some goes for. "She is riding a car". Or "They jumped from an airplane." There is no need to elaborate on this, unless is alien to the readers. For example "She climbed out of the robot." Now, we understand the principe of a human controlled robot. But....

Concept art by Neutronboar
A robot can look like this... Concept art by Neutronboar

Or it can look like this.... Commission from Eldon Cowger

Then the are the bipedal machines from Gundam or Battletech, and so on. Not to mention the proces of how you get inside these things.

On the other hand, a common pitfall for many aspiring writers is rambling about facts. The problem with that is, the moment you state facts, nothing is happing in the story! The narrative is ground to a halt while the reader is waiting for the characters to get an opportunity to do something.

Then elaboration on the details is essential to creating immersion. But, I will discuss the finer point of describing your world and how to immerse the reader in another article. But to achieve immersion one needs to be able to write a decent sentence.

But what is a sentence?


NOTE: before I continue, I decided to put this part out in two blogs. I might add a third supplementary post about Beginners Traps.

This one will discuss what I call the ACTION, REACTION, and CONTEXT dynamic.

The Second will talk about the SUBJECT OBJECT dynamic. They basically do the same thing, but might be confusing to delve into both in the same blog when digesting this material.



Imagine writing a comic book. As a rule, each panel contains 1 action per character (not including dialogue). First, an artist can only draw one action for each character at the time, and a reader can only focus on one thing at a time. The same goes for sentences, which I will demonstrate below.


Section 1: The ACTION, REACTION, and CONTEXT dynamic


One action per sentence

The core of each sentence is an ACTION. If you don't include one, the sentence doesn't move the story forward and feels pointless to the reader. Example


John walks

John whistles happily

John ran like the wind


Everything else revolves around the ACTION, be it the REACTION or the CONTEXT in which the ACTION occurs. But let's start with a simple example:

There is a character performing an ACTION, and an object/person being interacted with.


John feels the ground shake.

John walks up to the door.

John kicks in the door.

John walked through the doorway.


As you can see, the ACTION is written in either past tense or present tense. All other NON-ACTION verbs are in the present or past particle. We'll discuss this in more detail in the next blog.


First page from S-36: The Call Girl. Each Panel highlights one action.


But what if want to include more ACTIONS?

There is always exceptions. However, doing so creates an effect. If done inconstantly, it just becomes a mess. Think of film scenes that are sped up for comical effect, of comic book panels portraying a character several times performing various or consecutive actions in a short amount of time to build tension or for comedic effect.


Example. John ran across the room, kicked in the door, and burst into the hallway.


“Climbing?” Oil looked up, stuck to fingers in his mouth, and whistled so loud Igraine had to cover her ears. "Knutzzle! Come over here."


NOTE: All ACTIONS are in the past tense, but Igraine's reaction is written in past particle.


As you can see, this sentence makes you rush through the words and builds tension. But should be used only in the appropriate scenes. Speaking of context.


Context


The CONTEXT makes it clear when something is happening or under what circumstance, and it can build tension because the reader is prepared for the event, and then. Bang! it happens!


Examples of CONTEXT


Meanwhile, [...]

At that very moment, [...] Just when the character was about to do something, [...]

As the character was walking to the door, [...]


Now with an ACTION


Meanwhile, John felt the ground shake.

At that very moment, John kicked in the door.

Just when Garry was trying to hide the sheep in his closet, John walked through the doorway.



REACTIONS


In practice, REACTIONS appear very similar to CONTEXT because these both use the past particle.


He tilted the glass, and water came pouring out.

Water was pouring on the floor as he tilted the glass.


John threw the rock that Terry was evading.

Terry was dodging the blows that John threw.


As you can see, ACTIONS and REACTIONS can be arranged in any order. What is important is that the REACTION is written in the Present Particle. What happens if you switch it around?


Who in this example do you think is the protagonist?

As John was throwing punches, Terry dodged the blows.


What is the most important? The water pouring on the floor? Or 'he' tilting the glass?

Water poured on the floor as he was tilting the glass.

Is, tilting a glass, a proper REACTION to, water pouring on the floor?


In the next example, we start the sentence with CONTEXT, followed by an ACTION, followed by the REACTION.

Past particle, present tense, and another past particle.


As the cage stopped, the grating moved aside revealing Miss Spelling waiting for her by the elevator door.

“Miss Mortuba… You’ve come,” Miss Spelling said, as Igraine was getting out.


NOTE on commas: The REACTION can be separated by a [comma]. But it depends on how the sentence is structured.

If you would analyze the sentence the full ACTION (grammatically speaking) the grating moved aside revealing Miss Spelling waiting for her by the elevator door. Its always going to be discussions about commas. Some could argue the ACTION is 'the grating moved aside revealing Miss Spelling.' and, waiting for her by the elevator door.' is a separate part, giving context. (I disagree)


What can help you in these situations is reading the sentence outlook. A [comma] is a short pause. a [full stop] is a long pause. If you read the sentence and you are inclined to pause at the same point, probably best to add a [comma].




Important is to make the distinction between the ACTION in the sentence and the CONTEXT/REACTION. The distinction determines what the reader will focus on. Usually, you want to focus to be on the protagonist of the scene. Therefore, the Protagonist is performing the ACTION in most situations.

In the following example, I switched the CONTEXT with the ACTION.


When John came walking through the doorway, Garry wanted to hide the sheep in his closet.

Garry wanted to hide the sheep in his closet, when John came walking through the doorway.


The sentence feels off now, doesn't it? Or at least not as impactful. The context and/or consequences are often what makes actions funny. For example:


John opened the door, knocking over the ladder behind it, causing the widow washer to fall to his death.


An ACTION leads to unintended REACTIONS. Let's turn it around.


When John was opening the door, the ladder fell over, and the window washer died.


Doesn't work, does it?

In our next blog we delve more into why that is.


Not the most riveting read, but I hope it was useful. Let me know what you think and what you want me to expand upon. In the next blog we'll discuss more sentence construction.


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