Hello, SEers! Mae here, sending out a “thank you” for visiting with me today. I’m in WIP mode right now and concentrating on writing. I’ve gotten so much better about catching “unlikely simultaneous action” with my characters, but every now and then something slips through. Thankfully, if I don’t catch the goof during editing, I have critique partners and an editor who will.
What am I talking about? Take a look at this paragraph:
Caith drew a slow breath, forcing quiet unpleasant memories. When he’d collected himself, he headed down the steps, wandering into the kitchen where he found Aren. His brother was seated at the table, bent over his iPad, a cup of black coffee at his elbow.
At first glance you might not notice anything amiss, but take a harder look at the structure of the second sentence:
When he’d collected himself, he headed down the steps, wandering into the kitchen where he found Aren.
The problem? Caith can’t head down the steps and wander into the kitchen at the same time. He must complete one action (the steps), before undertaking the second, otherwise we have improbable simultaneous action. This type of problem easily slips into writing and is just as easily fixed by adding a conjunction or reworking the flow.
When he’d collected himself, he headed down the steps, then wandered into the kitchen where he found Aren.
When he’d collected himself, he headed down the steps. Eventually, he wandered into the kitchen where he found Aren seated at the table. His brother was bent over his iPad, a cup of black coffee at his elbow.
Here are some other examples of actions that can’t occur simultaneously—all pulled from early drafts of my novels:
Ryan returned to his seat at the table, crossing an ankle over his knee.
He must first reach the table, before he can sit and cross an ankle over his knee.
Someone walked along the creek bed, pausing to turn and face the house.
A person can’t walk and pause at the same time.
He chewed on an ever-present wad of gum, blowing a huge bubble.
He can’t chew and blow a bubble at the same time.
By now I’m sure you get the picture, but here are a few examples that are possible:
Easing from bed, she slipped on her robe then padded to the bedroom door.
If the robe is lying on the bed, she can slip into it at the same time she eases from the bed. Notice, also that the action of “padded to the bedroom door” comes after the first action of easing/slipping has been completed.
He belched, dragging the back of one massive hand across his mouth.
Gross, yes, but doable if he is using his hand to cover his belch.
Do you find unlikely simultaneous action creeping into your own writing? Do you have a trick for catching it? I hope you found today’s post helpful and would love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Ready, set, go!