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Are you using FAD: Feelings, Action, Dialogue?

It is never a bad time to learn something new. One of my clients just acquainted me with something I think I (and many other authors) do instinctively, but if you get it wrong it could cause confusion and you might not even realize it. It’s call FAD, which stands for Feelings, Actions, Dialogue. It’s the most logical way to organize an action in a story.

When something momentous (or even just something ordinary) occurs in your story, in what order do you put the action? The correct, logical way is this:

There is an impetus – a thought or something happens to the character

They feel the impact of it – emotionally and/or physically

There is an action – either a physical involuntary response (sweating, heart pounding, etc) and/or a voluntary physical response (they run, hit, hold up their hands, etc)

They say something regarding this, verbalizing their feelings or thoughts.

If you put these into the wrong order it might still work logically, but it won’t have as much impact. Here’s an example from the next book I’m going to be releasing at the beginning of next month, A Token of Love (this is the moment where the hero and heroine meet):

Here it is wrong (I’ve moved things around):

Christopher turned away before Freddie could object and walked straight into a dark-haired woman in the act of pouring something into a glass. (Impetus) “I do beg your pardon.” (Dialogue) He grabbed the glass before she could drop it. (Action)

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said at the same time. She looked up at him. (Impetus) “How clumsy of me,” she said with a little laugh. “I should know better than to pour medicine and walk at the same time. (Dialogue)

He could feel all of his muscles tense, readying for her gasp of horror, her fearful eyes. (Involuntary Action) Strangely, neither one came. Oh, there was the slight widening of her eyes, but oddly they immediately crinkled into a smile. (Action)

A smile! For him! (Feelings)

Here it is in the correct order:

He turned away before Freddie could object and walked straight into a dark-haired woman in the act of pouring something into a glass. (Impetus) He grabbed the glass before she could drop it. (Action) “I do beg your pardon.” (Dialogue)

“Oh, I’m sorry!” she said at the same time. She looked up at him. (Impetus) He could feel all of his muscles tense, readying for her gasp of horror, her fearful eyes. (Feelings/involuntary reaction) Strangely, neither one came. Oh, there was the slight widening of her eyes, but oddly they immediately crinkled into a smile. (Action)

A smile! For him! (Feelings)

“How clumsy of me,” she said with a little laugh. “I should know better than to pour medicine and walk at the same time. (Dialogue)

You see how it doesn’t quite work when you put things out of order. Also, you can see that in just a few lines I’ve got two things which the hero reacts to. Obviously, there could be thousands of such cause and effect interactions throughout your book.

For the first impetus, he doesn’t have any feelings, he simply reacts: cause, action, dialogue. In the second the feelings come in: cause, feelings, action, more feelings, dialogue. Yeah, I threw more feelings in there, what can I say, I’m writing a romance. lol! He also doesn’t verbalize his feelings of shock at the fact that she didn’t react to him in the way he expected because he both knows that would be impolite and because Freddie immediately interrupts the interaction by introducing the hero and heroine.

You can see why it’s so vital that you get the order right. You don’t want the impact of the actions and reactions to be lost or confused in your story.

If you’re having problems with your story or just the scene you are working on, and you can’t figure out what’s wrong, stop and take a look at the order in which things are happening. It could be that you’ve written actions, reactions, and dialogue out of order. Simply re-ordering things in the right way might make all the difference!

Merry
 

Meredith Bond is an award-winning author of a series of traditionally published Regency romances and indie-published paranormal romances. Known for her characters “who slip readily into one’s heart,” Meredith’s heart belongs to her husband and two children. Meredith’s second favorite pastime is teaching others to write.

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