Chase Scenes: Balancing the Mental, Physical, and Reader Elements

It feels strange not to start this series of posts with the physical element of chase scenes but there are so many articles about that element and far fewer that focus on the mental and reader elements. Even fewer discuss keeping a balance among the three. Maybe this is because of the belief that action makes the chase scene. But isn’t it the character’s emotional and intellectual reactions? Or is it the reader’s involvement?

All three, of course.

(We’ll break down these elements over the next three posts.)

While reader involvement is always paramount, the emphasis on the physical and mental elements shifts according to what type of book (or scene) you are writing. But emphasis also shifts within a scene.

The mental element makes thee reader care. It is gives substance to the chase scene. Emphasis on the mental element is common in character-driven stories. It consists of emotions and thoughts. The mental element both causes and follows physical action. As we’ll see, a focus on the mental element doe not have to mean slowing the pace of the action in the scene. It has a type of action all its own.

The physical element grounds the reader. It gives form to thee chase scene. Emphasis on the physical element is common in plot-driven stories. It consists of settings, obstacles, and moving objects. The physical element reacts to the character and forces the character to react. As we’ll see, the physical element helps shape the character and influences reader reactions.

A chase scene needs both substance and form. There is no formula for how much is needed where or when. The best guide is the reader. Doe the reader sit back and put thee book down at a certain point? You need more of the other element.

Or you forgot the reader element.

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