When plotting your story, always think of action and reaction. That means something interesting happens and then something else happens as a result. This constant chain of action/reaction keeps your story moving at all times, which holds the audience’s interest.
What happens if your story lacks this action/reaction dynamic? Then you’ll likely get a boring scene followed by an irrelevant scene. Suddenly your story seems to be going nowhere and audience interest plummets in a hurry. Imagine a story about a guy flying into Los Angeles to meet his wife who he’s been separated from. Now the next scene shows him driving to the beach to party with some strangers who invite him to join their party. What’s wrong with this story?
The first scene sets up the idea that this guy is going to meet his wife. Then the next scene doesn’t follow through. Instead, it takes us in an entirely different direction that has no relationship to the previous scene. Instead of telling a story, we\’re watching two disjointed, unconnected scenes that make no sense.
Of course it\’s possible to later show how those two scenes make sense, but if you never connect these two scenes, they serve no purpose occurring one right after another. Check out any movie and you can see this action/reaction structure all the time.
In “The Hunger Games,” Katniss enters the death arena with the other teenagers and makes a mad dash towards the supplies. That\’s an action. Another girl tries to kill Katniss with a knife so Katniss takes off running after escaping with a backpack. That’s her reaction.
This sets up another action. As Katniss flees for safety, she climbs a tree to hide from the others. Suddenly she sees another girl making a fire and getting ambushed by a group of teenagers. Now Katniss’s reaction is to stay hidden, which sets up the next action/reaction sequence.
This constant action/reaction sequence keeps the story moving rapidly that barely gives the audience time to take a breather before another crisis pops up. In “Die Hard,” the hero sees terrorists taking over the party. That’s the main action. His reaction is to run for safety.
His next action is to call for help, so he pulls the fire alarm. The terrorists identify the location of the fire alarm and send someone up to kill him, which is their reaction. The hero kills the terrorists (action), and then decides to have fun with them by sending the dead body of a terrorist down in an elevator (reaction).
The brother of the dead terrorist sees the body and vows revenge for his brother (action). He goes off to hunt down the hero to get his revenge (reaction).
In the 1972 movie “The Poseidon Adventure,” the ocean liner flips upside down (action). The survivors gather together (reaction). A waiter who survived finds himself above the dining room and asks for help in getting down (action). A small group of survivors realizes that if the ship is upside down, they’ll need to go higher rather than bring the waiter down (reaction). These survivors prop a Christmas tree to use as a ladder (action). Most of the other people refuse to climb the Christmas tree after them (reaction). Water bursts into the dining room (action). The survivors try to climb the Christmas tree too late but it topples over (reaction).
Look over the basic plot of your story. If it doesn’t have a constant action/reaction sequence, chances are good your story is dragging to a crawl, which you should cut. Watch older movies and they tend to move far slower than today’s movies. You need to keep your story moving from start to finish like a roller coaster. Any breaks in the action will be just as deadly as gaps in a roller coaster track.