ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Fatal Lull

Updated on July 19, 2016
neildabb profile image

Neil is an owner of DragonTech Writing, a techncial writing firm located in Logan, Utah. He is also a published freelance writer.

This graph shows how a fatal lull and a non-fatal lull might differ.
This graph shows how a fatal lull and a non-fatal lull might differ.

The Most Dangerous Lull.

The most dangerous place for the fatal lull is the first chapter, or worse, the first line of the book. Whether an electronic or a print article, short story or book the first line (or few lines) should catch the reader's attention. This is often referred to as the hook. The first line should grab the reader, and then the story should carry the reader on a wave after wave of adventure and excitement.

A Much Needed Lull.

“Are you at a stopping place yet?”

For the short story reader, keeping the action raised to the highest level is seldom a problem. For the novelist, not giving the reader time to breath can be just as fatal as the lull that goes too deep. If a reader doesn’t have time to see the settings of where they are and where they are going, they may predict the ending and walk away. Not only do we need to see the bomb ticking under the table, but we need to see the people at the table enjoying their food, and discussing the weather (all while that bomb is ticking away).

I finally finished reading a novel that I had started nearly a year earlier, and had put aside because there was a lull in the action. It wasn’t because I wasn’t interested in the story, I knew there was much more excitement ahead, but for that one chapter there just wasn’t enough action going on to convince me to finish reading (until I was ready to read another of this author’s books). For an established author this can be dangerous. For the new writer, it can be fatal, so I call this ‘the Fatal Lull.’

The author I was reading is well established, and I’d read and enjoyed many of his books before with no such issues. Then later I went back to revise one of my own novels, and when I got to chapter 4 I was shocked to find the same malady I’d found in this other book, the fatal lull. Once I recovered from the shock, I began working. It took me a couple of days to figure out how to eliminate the issues that were causing the lull, and a couple more to finish integrating the changes. But I believe I fixed the problem, and in the process, here is what I learned.

First, identify the lull. Is there a place in the story where one adventure or conflict with a character or characters has been resolved and the next big conflict hasn’t been revealed yet? That is a potential fatal lull. Anywhere there is a lull without at least some undercurrent of tension (a bomb under the meeting table for example) is dangerous since a reader can easily put the book down and never finish it. Search for these places in your story and eliminate them. Here are some ways that I have discovered to resolve this issue.

Find ways to strengthen the undercurrent or over all flow of the story (plot-line). It is difficult to keep the action at a high level all of the time, not to mention it can be exhausting to the reader. Small lulls give the reader a chance to breath, but there must be enough action going on to keep the reader turning pages. Show them that the bomb is still ticking while the characters rest.

Reorder the action. There is no rule that says the action of the coming conflict can’t start (or at least be hinted at) before the resolution of the previous conflict. Also, don’t be afraid to hint at what is coming up. In the novel I was reading, a simple hint of a very nasty foe we meet at the end of the novel, could have been revealed during the lull, ramping up the interest there as well as increasing interest through the rest of the book.

Leave loose ends that readers care about. If there are loose ends left from the previous action that can’t be easily tied up and that the reader cares about, the reader is more likely to keep reading than if everything is tied up in a nice little package. Cut (or at least move) any section that does not move the action forward. A brief section on why a character does what he does, may seem like a nice way to break up an intense sequence, but it will likely kill the forward momentum and create another dangerous lull.

Finally, use multiple methods to keep the action going. In the novel I was reading, the author only used one method. Hinting at the one big thing to come. Most readers need more than that to keep them turning pages. A brief lull in the action may not be absolutely fatal to a story, but if it lasts more than a few paragraphs, it may be terminal.

qed.

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)